What Is Trauma Bonding?

When you think about the trauma and hard things you went through in your childhood, can you think of any inappropriate bonds you had with anyone? If your answer is yes, you may have a trauma bond. 

What is a trauma bond? How does it impact your life today? How can you get free from it?

Trauma bonds don’t just impact you in childhood. You can develop them all throughout your adult life too. How do you know if you have one?

We’re going to answer all of these questions and break down what you need to know about trauma bonds so you can get free. We’ll also talk about the signs of a trauma bond so you can recognize them. Let’s get started.

What are Trauma Bonds?

A trauma bond is the unhealthy emotional attachment that occurs in abusive relationships. The bond is what usually prevents people from leaving abusive relationships or not recognizing the patterns of abuse from their partner. 

An extreme example of trauma bonding is the Stockholm Syndrome. In the 1970s in Stockholm, hostages bonded with their abusive captor so much that when they were finally free, they refused to testify against them in court. In fact, they even raised money for the defense!

That’s an example of a classic trauma bond; however, they are not always as clear cut as that. 

Usually, trauma bonds can develop because abusers go back-and-forth from being kind to being abusive. In most abusive relationships, the abusive person starts off kind and affectionate. That builds an intimacy level that makes it easy to overlook or not recognize the abuse that starts to happen.

Like I said earlier, this connection is what makes it even harder for the victim to leave the abuser. They remember the happy times when the abuser treated them well, and it convinces them to stay in a harmful relationship. 

Trauma bonds can occur in:

  • Abusive romantic relationships
  • Abusive child and adult relationships
  • Hostage and captor relationships
  • Cult leader and member relationships
  • Abusive athletic coaching relationships
  • Abusive spiritual leaders and followers

Now that we know what trauma bonds are, let’s learn how to recognize them.

What are the Signs of a Trauma Bond?

There are two main signs of trauma bonds: a cycle of abuse and an imbalance of power. There are also quite a few little signs to watch out for. Let’s break them all down.

Cycles of Abuse

The first sign of a trauma bond is when a relationship has a cycle of abuse. The abuser is sweet and kind for a while and then they start abusing again. This pattern repeats itself over and over again.

The cycle of abuse is manipulative to the victim because it forces them to connect to the abuser when they are being loving. If the situation were all bad, it would be much easier to leave. However, since they see the “good side” of the abuser, they convince themselves to stay.

A cycle of abuse can be present in romantic relationships. It’s also prevalent in cults. The cult leader is usually always extremely charismatic, friendly, and welcoming. The abuse doesn’t start until a new member is in the door. And even then, there are good parts of the cult, like the fellowship and sense of belonging. The good parts make the member stay despite the worsening abusive behavior of the cult leader.

Imbalance of Power

The second most prevalent sign of a trauma bond is an imbalance of power. This usually occurs when the abuser is in a position of authority over the victim. It’s common for this to happen in child and adult relationships. 

In a child and adult relationship, the abuser is usually offering some provision for the child as well which makes them even more dependent. For example, the abuser may shower the child with gifts or provide them with fancy meals. 

Many adults realize that they had a trauma bond with their sports coach growing up. In fact, many stories about abusive gymnastic coaches have surfaced in recent years, and they show classic signs of a trauma bond. 

The coach is hard on the gymnast in practice but showers the athlete with praise when he/she performs well. It makes the young gymnast want to continue pleasing the coach, and since this person has authority over them, they don’t recognize it as abuse. This is a classic cycle of abuse that indicates a strong trauma bond. 

Child and adult trauma bonds can continue into the victim’s adulthood, too. For example, many adults have trauma bonds with their parents that were formed early on in their life. 

They don’t know how to set boundaries and continue to let their mom or dad parent them despite being an adult now. This type of trauma bond can prevent someone from fully growing up and becoming independent. 

Other Signs of a Trauma Bond

The other signs of a trauma bond include:

  • Tension in the relationship
  • The victim doesn’t like the abuser anymore, but they don’t know how to leave
  • If the victim threatens to leave, the abuser promises to change their behavior
  • The victim focuses on the good days and overlooks the bad ones
  • The victim defends the abusers actions

Now that we know what signs to look for in a trauma bond, let’s talk about how a victim can finally get free.

Getting Free From a Trauma Bond

Are you in an abusive relationship with a strong trauma bond? Do you still have a trauma bond from a past relationship? If you answered yes, it’s time for you to get free. 

If you are still in an abusive relationship right now, the first thing I want you to do is ask yourself if you would advise a friend to stay in that relationship. If the answer is no, it’s time to give yourself the freedom to leave. 

Next, talk to loved ones or close friends about what you’re experiencing or have experienced in the past. Victims usually keep abusive relationships a secret to protect their abuser. The more you talk about it with people you trust, the more confidence you will have to walk away.

I also want you to seek professional counseling. Trauma bonds are deep attachments that you shouldn’t try to work through on your own. A licensed therapist will help you break the attachment and move forward with your life.

If you are in a violent or extremely controlling relationship where you are fearful of your abuser, please seek out help from a domestic violence center to make a safety plan before leaving. The time when a victim leaves can be the most dangerous time and should be carefully planned, and only done when the victim feels ready. The national domestic violence hotline phone number is 1-800-799-SAFE, and the website is: https://www.thehotline.org/ They can direct you to someone local in your area.

This may be a long process, but it is worth it for you to get free from abuse. Keep a journal of all of your feelings during this experience, and ask the Lord to heal your heart everyday. You may want to also seek some heart healing ministry to help in your recovery process.

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