Trauma Bonding and Abuse
“I feel sorry for him. He had an abusive childhood.”
“He said he’s sorry for hurting me and it’ll never happen again so I guess I will stay. I can forgive him one more time.”
“I feel physically sick at the thought of leaving him. He can be very kind sometimes.”
“He makes me feel terrible about myself, but when he’s good, he’s VERY good.”
Familiar? I hope not. I hope and pray that if you are in an abusive relationship whether it’s a boyfriend, a husband or someone else, you will see through the lies and the deception and find a way to get out. These quotes are all indicative of trauma bonding.
Trauma bonding is a common condition of abusive relationships. It’s a strange loyalty to someone who is destructive. It springs from the “honeymoon” phase of the Abuse Cycle. Because of his promises, his gifting, his love bombing and rewards for our “good behavior”, we stay and believe that he is finally done with control, manipulation and abuse of power in our relationship.
And yet, how sad and pitiful when we realize so soon, that the wheel of abuse is turning, the ugly side is coming back, and the narcissist is once again showing his true colors.
Experts have identified seven stages of trauma bonding and I will borrow some of that from online sources (themighty.com).
- Love Bombing. The abuser lavishes love, flattery and appreciation on the victim in order to win her affection. For the vulnerable woman, this is a wonderful happy situation – finally someone loves her. Somewhere along the way though, she loses touch with her saving relationship with Jesus Christ, the only one who truly loves her.
- Trust and Dependency. The abuser tries to win your trust and convince you to depend on him for validation and love. He is manipulating your heart, making promises that sound so good. She forgets the true promises from her Lord and Savior.
- Criticism. Gradually the abuser will begin to find fault with you and blame you for everything. He will start to demand certain things.
- Gaslighting. You will wonder if you’re losing your mind as he points out all the things you are doing wrong. You’ll wonder what’s wrong with your memory when he denies making certain statements. You will doubt your own perceptions, and he will gladly manipulate you into believing his narrative.
- Resigning/Giving up. It is a heavy burden on our hearts to fight against all he is saying and doing. We give in, we give up and do things the way the abuser orders it to be done just to keep the peace.
- Loss of Self. Having lost confidence in ourselves, we stop fighting back. We actually become a slave, a sad extension of the abuser.
- Addiction. Strangely, we become addicted to the highs and lows of the relationship. Our physical bodies are in a constant battle between the cortisol high from stress and the craving for dopamine from the pleasure of the relationship. It is actually a cycle of dependency that looks and feels a lot like addiction.
Are you seeing yourself? Or someone you know? Like other forms of abuse, trauma bonding is easier seen by a friend or family member on the outside looking in. But what to do about this very unhealthy relationship?
Will marriage counseling or therapy with the abuser fix the problem? No.
Like all recovery models, the very first step is a recognition of where you are, what you are in, who he really is and how far you’ve fallen from being a healthy person. Maybe you were a victim of childhood trauma or have been in a lifelong pattern of abusive relationships. Recognize this for what it is – ABUSE – and then RUN, don’t walk, back to Jesus. He loves you. The Father is waiting with open arms. He will welcome you, He forgives you, He restores you. He will help you to be free of the oppression, the stronghold of trauma bonding. You can be free.
“Jesus said to those who believed Him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” John 8:32, 36