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What is a trauma bond? And how to get out of one

 Trauma bonding can happen at any stage of  your life but is mostly common in romantic relationships (Image: Shutterstock)

You will hear people say “Just leave him” or “walk out” to people stuck in relationships that are clearly not good for them physically or mentally but is walking out ever that easy?

No, it never is and that is why those who break free from the shackles of their abusers are considered strong and enduring.

In most cases toxic relationships can be confusing for a victim especially when the abuser alternates from being mean, insensitive, abusive to showing total remorse, kindness and intimacy. This is called a trauma bond.

By definition, a trauma bond arises from recurring pattern of abuse perpetuated by sporadic reinforcement through rewards and punishments.

Trauma bonding may happen at any stage of our lives from childhood, but it is most common in romantic relationships.

For instance, does your partner constantly make you cry and hate yourself and the next second they are showering you with gifts and declaring their undying love?

You are probably stuck in this vicious circle of trauma bonding. You are hopeful there is some good in your partner people don’t see  or understand, and for the abusive incidents? They will pass.  

It is hard from a victim of abuse to fathom trauma bonding because at the very beginning, everything is rosy, they are overwhelmed with feelings of affection, attention and they are thinking, things couldn’t get any better?

As you get comfortable with your partner, the first incident of abuse takes you by surprise, they probably yell at you which they later apologize for profusely and make it up to you and you forgive them.

Before you realize it, it’s been months and your partner is the exact opposite of what you ever dreamt of. Worst case scenario, they are physically abusive. But you love them and can’t imagine your life without them.  

 In the beginning your abuser is charming and the first red flag is considered a mere hiccup (Image: Shutterstock)

If you feel trapped and unable to break free from your trauma bond or toxic relationship, here are a few tips to start you off:

Focus on the evidence

You have a bruise on your arm or you have seen your psychologist one too many times, focus on the nights you have spent alone crying, wondering where your partner was. It is easier for you to break the bond when you see them for who they are not what they could be.

Educate yourself on toxic relationships

Sometimes being told your relationship is toxic isn’t enough. Read about it and do your research extensively. Spot the signs on your own relationship and gauge how far in you are gone in your relationship. It is much easier to believe what you see and understand on your own than what you are told by friends.

Learn about healthy relationships

It is not easy to know what you deserve if you have never experienced it. As you unlearn what you are used to, read about healthy relationships as well. They are real and you deserve one as well. You are probably stuck in a trauma bond because you are attracted to the same kind of people, you have a type, a dangerous type. Focus on something different and you might just notice the difference.

Have a safety plan

If you haven’t managed to leave your partner in over a year or two, it won’t happen overnight either. You need a plan, a good plan. If your safety is at risk, think about the proximity, how much money you have to support yourself and if you can get help from outside.

See a therapist

In cases where you feel totally helpless, you can seek the help of a therapist to help you overcome this phase. They will help you learn and understand why you are stuck in a trauma bond and how to break free and be your own person.

Practice self-care

A trauma bond can and will make you believe your life is worthless without your partner. Overtime, they have practiced the art of putting you down and you no longer have a voice. Build back your self-esteem first and learn to love and put yourself first. Get a hobby, anything to keep you busy and away from being feeling needy.

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