When an abuser programs someone to fall for them by showering them with love and then withholds that love in order to get whatever they want from the other person, there we have a trauma bond.
The abused person wants the relationship to work because the positives were quite good but also because they want to get rid of being seen and treated negatively. They want to return to the good old days.
The abused person may have already been used to tumultuous or drama-filled relationships. So when the abuser pulls the rug from underneath them and begins to act mean, they can’t do what “normal” people would and sever the tie.
Here are six things they’ll do instead:
1. Make excuses
Firstly, they will make excuses to themselves in order to explain why they are staying with an abusive person and then they will make excuses to everybody else.
Once everybody sees the physical, emotional or psychological abuse, they’re going to say or at least think something. Why? Because it is something. Everyone knows what good treatment looks like, so to see anything other than that is going to raise eyebrows and concerns.
If you or someone you care about is making excuses for a partner’s behavior, please understand that one wouldn’t have to make up excuses if there wasn’t something to hide.
And if they can’t explain why they remain in the relationship, take note that it’s because they don’t have anything positive to say. Sure, saying that your partner is kind, thoughtful, charming and loving is cliché but it should be cliché because these are the traits one’s partner should have!
2. Stay silent
An abused person may take the first example a step further and simply not reveal anything about the relationship to anyone. This could be because they were intimidated or threatened to not speak or because they have a vested interest in maintaining the relationship and don’t want outsiders to threaten it.
Any way you slice it, this is a problem because no one can help. Plus the only way anyone is going to know that something is up is because it is awfully suspicious for one to be in a romantic relationship and never say anything about their partner. But bear in mind that a trauma bond can happen in a variety of relationships.
Also, an abused person may not express their needs, desires or frustrations with the relationship to their partner because they do not want to invoke the wrath of their partner. But if you can’t express yourself to the person who supposedly loves you, that’s a major sign that you’re not safe and devaluing yourself.
3. Fear of leaving
As I mentioned earlier, after the abused person was initially showered with love and had it pulled away from them, they do not want to leave the relationship. They want to go back to the time where everything was better and will do what it takes to get the love back.
As a result, they aren’t going anywhere. They’ve fallen for the sunk-cost fallacy and believe that they’ve invested too much to leave now.
If you speak to someone about leaving the relationship, there is likely to be reticence in their voice because they understand why you’d want them to leave but they don’t want to leave something that was once good to start all over.
But more fundamentally, this may be a relationship dynamic that they know too well — the abuser versus the abused. One person dictates how the other person should exist and the other person complies because they want love. The abused person in this context unconsciously falls for and stays with people who are abusive because the people they loved in their past were also abusive.
4. Promises of change
For argument’s sake, let’s say that the abused person actually voices their opinion and takes steps to leave. This is where the abuser goes for broke and makes promises to be different and that everything the abused person wanted they will now get.
The abuser will keep up the charade for a while, lulling the abused person into a false sense of security until everything goes back to normal and the abuse returns.
This then leads to the next example of trauma bonding:
5. Fighting over the same issue
It’s a cycle. Things are okay, then things go south and once it reaches a breaking point, the abused person gets serious, the abuser adjusts to make things better but it’s just a ruse to keep the abused person around.
It isn’t impossible that things could change and it isn’t impossible that an abuser actually gets the help they need to be a better partner and a better person. But the abused person is hoping desperately for that to be the case because they know that the toxic dynamic is excruciating.
If you find yourself hoping that your partner changes their toxic ways, it’s a sign to walk away. Your hope that they will one day see the light isn’t in your control. Moreover, who are you to tell someone how to be? Hell, who are they to abuse you into doing what they want you to do?
The relationship is toxic and if it isn’t going to be cleaned up, you need to leave before you get sicker.
6. You are their everything
In healthy relationships, it’s understood that no one can be everything for anyone else. You can’t be someone’s romantic partner, therapist, secretary, fitness instructor, dance partner, career coach and stylist.
Worse when they berate you for making a mistake or suggesting something they don’t like or just being a regular human with limited resources. The codependency will have you thinking that your worth is less than what it actually is because the abuser will treat the abused horribly regardless of the context.
The abused person could be the foremost expert in some discipline or activity. None of that matters to the abuser. The abuser must be on top and dominate every aspect of the relationship.
I suppose the greatest irony in all these examples of trauma bonding but in this last one especially is just how much the abuser desperately needs their partner. They cause so much destruction and chaos in another person’s life because they cannot handle their own issues.
The abused person unknowingly holds all the wild cards but they choose not to use them because they think that they and their abusive partner are on the same team, fighting for the relationship.
I suppose it’s true that they are both fighting for the relationship, but they are not fighting for the same kind of relationship. One is fighting for a relationship where there is mutual love, the other is fighting for a relationship where they are loved by someone else.