What Really is Traumatic Bonding and how to Break it

Traumatic bonding is an unhealthy emotional attachment that happens in an abusive relationship between the abuser and the victim when phases of emotional abuse are followed by phases of affection and niceness continuously. This unhealthy attachment can be so strong that the victim may find it impossible to leave the relationship.

To understand well why it can be hard to leave an abusive relationship, it’s important to know a little about traumatic bonding.

Why is it hard to break free from traumatic bonding

There are many reasons why a person can fall victim to traumatic bond and fail to get out of it.. Some of these reasons are:

1. Confusing attachment with love

What most people don’t know about love is that love can be confused with many emotions that have nothing to do with love. Most people think that as long as they are feeling in love with a certain person, then they must be in love with him, but that’s not always the case. One of the emotions that are usually confused with love is emotional attachment.

A certain lady met a narcissist man who was really nice to her in the first interactions and claimed to be in love with her. This lady didn’t fall in love with this man at first but because he kept pushing for a relationship at the same time being nice and sweet, this lady became emotionally attached to him and took him as a great friend.

One day this narcissistic man became cold, distant and decided to never talk to her. This lady did not understand this behaviour and because she hated rejection very much, she got really hurt and started believing that she was really in love with this man. As a result tried every method to win back his approval. This lady managed to win him back and got into a relationship with him. Later on this man turned out to be very abusive but every time he became abusive, she always tried to win back his niceness because she was convinced that she had true love for him. Therefore the traumatic bond became established. (See: introduction to narcissistic abuse recovery)

2. Similar childhood experience

To understand how childhood experience can make a person stay in a traumatic bonded relationship, let me give another example of another lady, let’s call her Rose.

Rose had a father who was emotionally unstable, The father would treat Rose and everybody in the family nicely when he is in a good mood and very badly when he is in a bad mood. Of course Rose was very young and never understood that there was something wrong with her father, instead she unconsciously believed that there was something wrong about her and her mother because the father used to call them names such as “stupid” when he was being abusive. As a result, Rose grew up with low self-esteem.

Rose grew up with an unconscious belief that it’s normal for men to behave like her father. Unsurprisingly she got into a relationship with a man who turned out to be exactly like her father. You may be thinking that this happened by coincidence but that’s not the case. Rose was unconsciously looking for a man who would treat her the way she believed she deserved to be treated.

Throughout her childhood, the father had convinced her that she is unworthy, therefore whenever she met a man who constantly treated her nicely, she not only found him boring but she also thought that he was insincere. Rose really hated emotional abuse from the bottom of her heart but she never managed to leave the abusive relationship because it was nothing new to her. (See: 8 signs of a toxic relationship)

How to break free from traumatic bond

Most counsellors usually advise leaving the abusive relationship as the only solution but that’s only half the solution. Most often when a person only leaves an abusive relationship without dealing with the issue that made her get into such relationship in the first place, she usually find herself in a similar relationship sooner or later especially if she had similar childhood experience. On the other hand, some people find it difficult to ever get into another relationship.

In order to break free from traumatic bond and its effects, it’s important to understand well if you have emotional issues that got you attached to an abusive partner. Once you understand the root cause of any emotional problem it becomes easier solve it permanently.

The next step should be fixing any emotional wound that you might have developed when you were in the abusive relationship. For example when I’m coaching someone who was in an abusive relationship, I usually ask them some questions in order to figure out what kind of emotional wounds they might have developed when they were in the abusive relationship. Because some emotional wounds can prevent a person from ever getting into another relationship if not dealt with, I usually help them get over any emotional they might have developed. See: how to deal with a gaslighting narcissist.