Trauma bonding is a complex psychological phenomenon in which an individual forms an unhealthy and dysfunctional attachment to a person, group, or organisation that is causing them emotional or physical harm.
This bond can be especially strong in situations where the individual is dependent on the abuser for survival or when the abuser alternates between abuse and kindness, creating confusion and a sense of being trapped.
Trauma bonding can occur in many different types of relationships, including those between parents and children, romantic partners, social workers, and cult members and more… It can lead to a cycle of abuse and victimisation that is difficult to break and can have long-lasting effects on a person’s mental health and well-being, effecting their quality of life. Therapy and support from trusted individuals can be helpful in breaking the cycle of trauma bonding.
In marriages where there is a trauma bond, there are often cycles of abuse and reconciliation. The cycle typically consists of three phases:
- Tension-building phase: This phase is characterised by an increase in tension and conflict between the partners. The abusive partner may become increasingly critical, moody, or unpredictable, causing the victim to feel on edge and anxious.
- Explosive or abusive phase: This phase is marked by an outburst of abusive behaviour from the abusive partner, such as physical violence, emotional abuse, or verbal abuse. The victim may feel trapped, scared, and powerless during this phase.
- Honeymoon or reconciliation phase: In this phase, the abusive partner may apologise, show remorse, or make promises to change. The victim may feel relief and hope that things will get better. This phase can reinforce the trauma bond as the victim may feel a sense of attachment and loyalty to the abuser, believing that they can change or that the relationship can be saved.
However, over time, the cycle of abuse and reconciliation may become more frequent, with the honeymoon phase becoming shorter and less effective. The trauma bond can become stronger, making it increasingly difficult for the victim to leave the relationship. It is important to recognise the signs of a trauma bond and seek professional help to break the cycle of abuse.
Fixing trauma bonding in a marriage can be a complex and challenging process, and it often requires professional help. Here are some steps that may be helpful in addressing trauma bonding in a marriage:
- Acknowledge the problem: The first step in addressing trauma bonding is to acknowledge that there is a problem. It is important for both partners to recognise that the cycle of abuse and reconciliation is unhealthy and damaging to the relationship.
- Seek professional help: Trauma bonding can be difficult to break on your own. Seeking the help of a therapist or counsellor who has experience in working with trauma bonding can be helpful in addressing the underlying issues and developing strategies for breaking the cycle of abuse.
- Develop a safety plan: If you are in an abusive relationship, it is important to develop a safety plan to protect yourself and any children involved. This may include identifying safe places to go, developing a code word or signal to use with trusted friends or family members, and setting boundaries with the abusive partner.
- Build a support system: Having a strong support system can be crucial in breaking a trauma bond. This may include reaching out to friends or family members who are supportive, joining a support group for survivors of domestic violence, or connecting with a therapist or counsellor.
- Focus on self-care: Taking care of yourself is essential in the healing process. This may include engaging in activities that bring you joy, setting boundaries with the abusive partner, practicing self-compassion, and seeking medical attention if needed.
- Consider leaving the relationship: If the abuse is ongoing and the relationship is not safe, it may be necessary to leave the relationship. This can be a difficult decision, but sometimes it is the only way to break the cycle of abuse and trauma bonding.
While narcissism is not necessarily a product of trauma bonding, there may be a connection between the two.
Individuals who have experienced trauma, such as abuse or neglect, may develop coping mechanisms that involve a heightened sense of self-importance or self-centeredness, which can sometimes manifest as narcissism. Note: Childhood trauma can be a catalyst for narcissism by way of protection. This is because narcissism can serve as a defence mechanism to protect against further trauma or to compensate for feelings of inadequacy or insecurity.
Additionally, individuals who have experienced trauma may be more susceptible to trauma bonding and may develop unhealthy attachments to partners or caregivers who exhibit narcissistic behaviour. This can reinforce the trauma bond and make it more difficult to leave the relationship.
However, it is important to note that not all individuals who experience trauma develop narcissistic tendencies, and not all narcissists have a history of trauma bonding. Narcissism is a complex personality trait that can have a variety of causes, including genetic and environmental factors, and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
A healthy relationship bond is characterised by trust, respect, mutual support, and open communication. Here are some signs of a healthy relationship bond:
- Mutual trust: Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. In a healthy bond, both partners trust each other and feel safe being vulnerable and honest with each other.
- Respectful communication: Healthy relationships involve respectful communication. Partners listen to each other without judgment, communicate their thoughts and feelings clearly and honestly, and avoid blaming or criticising each other.
- Mutual support: In a healthy relationship bond, both partners provide support and encouragement to each other, and work together to overcome challenges and achieve their goals.
- Emotional connection: Emotional connection is an important part of a healthy bond. Partners can express their emotions to each other, and feel understood and supported.
- Independence and interdependence: In a healthy bond, partners maintain their own individuality and independence, while also recognising and valuing the interdependence of their relationship.
- Shared values and interests: Partners in a healthy bond share common values and interests, and enjoy spending time together doing activities they both enjoy.
- Boundaries: Healthy relationships involve setting and respecting boundaries. Partners can communicate their needs and limits, and respect each other’s boundaries.
In a healthy relationship bond, both partners feel valued, loved, and respected, and can grow and thrive together.
Note: You may like to research attachment styles it may surprise you how much your training (childhood) has to do with your attachment
What are the attachment styles?
Attachment styles refer to patterns of behaviour and thought that individuals develop in response to their early attachment experiences with primary caregivers. The four main attachment styles are:
- Secure Attachment Style: Individuals with a secure attachment style feel comfortable with intimacy and can rely on others for support. They tend to have positive views of themselves and others, and are comfortable with emotional expression and vulnerability.
- Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style: Individuals with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style are often preoccupied with their relationships and worry about rejection or abandonment. They tend to have negative views of themselves and positive views of others, and may struggle with low self-esteem and self-doubt.
- Avoidant-Dismissive Attachment Style: Individuals with an avoidant-dismissive attachment style tend to avoid close relationships and may have difficulty expressing emotions or relying on others for support. They tend to have positive views of themselves and negative views of others, and may value independence and self-sufficiency.
- Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style: Individuals with a fearful-avoidant attachment style may have conflicting desires for closeness and distance in relationships. They may struggle with feelings of anxiety, mistrust, and fear of rejection, and may have negative views of themselves and others.
These attachment styles are based on the work of psychologists Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby, who developed attachment theory to describe the ways in which early attachment experiences shape later behaviour and relationships. While these attachment styles are generally considered to be stable across the lifespan, it is important to note that individuals may also have different attachment styles in different relationships or contexts. Additionally, with awareness and effort, individuals can work to shift towards a more secure attachment style through therapy or self-reflection.
Here are links to help you understand you a little better.