If you’re in an abusive relationship, the best possible course of action is to leave your abuser. Despite this seeming like an obvious solution, it can often seem impossible for you to leave. Many people may question why someone who is being abused won’t leave their abuser and while there are many possible reasons for why a person might stay with their partner, one of the biggest and most common reasons is that they’ve formed a trauma bond.
So what is a trauma bond? And what are the signs that someone has developed this kind of attachment with their abuser? A trauma bond describes when someone has strong feelings of fondness or love for someone who has abused them because they have developed a connection with them. Trauma bonding is typically found within romantic relationships but is not limited to these kinds of partnerships. No matter the situation, a trauma bond is fundamentally about dependency and the desire for someone to fulfill your needs. Individuals who are trauma bonded experience a pattern of abusiveness followed by stretches of time that can be classified as “honeymoon periods.” These periods lead you to believe that the abuser will get better, which is why you decide to stay. Unfortunately, however, the pattern continues.
There are several signs and symptoms to look for in individuals that have been trauma bonded. The first of these symptoms is the refusal of the individual who is being abused to see the red flags. You may look past the abusive behavior as you recall the good moments of the relationship or just be in denial of the behavior entirely. This is not uncommon for individuals with a trauma bond and acts as a deterrent to them leaving the relationship.
The second sign of a trauma bond is a drained feeling and a lack of open communication. A healthy relationship survives and thrives on conflict and open communication. Conflict can be seen as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and can show that you trust each other and feel close enough to share what you feel, want, or need. Not having the ability to talk openly or feeling like you have to hold your feelings inside can be mentally exhausting for anyone and existing in such a relationship isn’t healthy for anyone.
The third and final sign of trauma bonding is an undying sense of loyalty to the abusive partner and defending the partner’s bad behavior. If you come to their defense immediately even when you know they’re wrong, that is a clear sign of a trauma bond. Loyalty to the abusive partner is considered a hallmark of a trauma bond. Through a pattern of abuse, intimidation, and manipulation, abusive partners can gain loyalty from their partners. This loyalty is what creates and sustains the trauma bond that results in a seemingly endless cycle.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an abusive relationship that has caused them to form a trauma bond with their abuser, don’t hesitate to reach out and get help. Check out our trauma-focused treatment options for people who have been abused. We’re here to help.