Updated: Aug 27
So many clients of mine express how strong their 'love' is when they are in a trauma bonded relationship. It's almost like they feel their partner is a part of their body and soul, like a limb, even if it is a part that they struggle with and causes them pain. Somehow, they can't seem to let go and their relationship feels integral to their being, despite the relationship problems they experience. Here are 3 key points as to why people feel their trauma bonded relationships are stronger than love: 1) Trauma bonds create addiction and dependency, similar to drug addiction. When in trauma bonding, you have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows (again, similar to someone who has taken and withdrawn from drugs). On a physiological level, chronic stress disrupts hormonal balance including corticotrophin releasing factors, cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine. High levels of chronic stress literally shuts down your frontal cortex - the part of your brain that is responsible for logical reasoning and problem-solving - and so it becomes so hard to see what the "solution" is to the relationship and how to end the pain. You also experience the neuropeptide oxytocin which helps people to 'bond' and 'attach' to one another - but remember, you are experiencing this under the condition of stress. Your body and brain then ASSOCIATES STRESS WITH LOVE. Therefore, it goes something like this, "I can never feel love without it being stressful". You constantly search for the highs when you experience the crashing lows, making you stay in the relationship. 2) Trauma bonding also impact one's self-worth. People who are high on the empathy scale and who may be anxiously attached often seek validation from their partners. The vulnerable individual in this relationship looks for validation through being extremely nice and caring, and they go above and beyond to make their partner happy. All of this to seek validation from their partner who has narcissistic traits. Your self-worth (as an empath) ends up lying in the narcissist's ability to 'validate you' or not. Sadly they end up with the power, leaving you feeling helpless. You remain in the relationship in the hope that they give you that validation and you can feel worthy again. 3) The power imbalance in these relationships places the empath in a subordinate position, leading to self-doubt and fear of leaving. The unconscious mind learns to expect being in a low position, causing individuals to doubt their worth and fear future relationships. The familiarity of the trauma bond outweighs the uncertainty of leaving, as the mind prefers the known.
If anything here has resonated with you, please check out some of my free resources that can help become more aware of some of the unhealthy patterns and improve your relationship. In addition, please:
Be EXTRA kind to yourself - you deserve it and need kindness the most.
You are not to blame, so please let go of any self-criticisms or judgements.
You need time and space to heal and grow.
Your emotions are true and absolutely valid.
If you found this useful, please do me 2 favours. Please have a look at my free e-book here which can help you improve your relationship and heal trauma bonding. Second, please share with other people who you feel would benefit from this - because the more people supported, the better our community can survive and heal.
As always, if you ever want to connect and gain support - I'm here.
All my love, Dr Sarah