Trauma Bonding is what makes it so difficult to escape a narcissist relationship. It’s why you feel like you are going crazy and even though your head is telling you this person is no good for you, you find yourself pining, unable to function and demeaning yourself for scraps of approval and attention.
During phase one of a relationship with a narcissist, often known as the love bombing stage, an attachment is formed. The narcissist overloads you with compliments, makes you feel like you are the most gorgeous woman in the world and like the fairy tales you feel like you’ve finally found your prince. You feel like you are walking on air and the world feels so bright and new. This is the love you’ve been waiting for your whole life.
Once the narcissist senses he has you hooked, he now moves onto phase two. This will involve testing you and punishments for not meeting the narcissist’s standards. Common tactics during this phase may involve other women to try and invoke jealousy, ignoring messages (when previously he’d have answered straight away), canceling dates, making comments about your looks to make you feel insecure and silent treatment if you even try and complain.
You start feeling confused, wondering what you’ve done wrong, the silent treatment causes you to feel panic-stricken and you long for the narcissist to go back to how it was in the beginning. You may find yourself trying to change yourself to try and become what the narcissist wants but the goalposts move so much you feel in a constant state of stress.
The bond formed during the initial love phase coupled with the trauma chemicals from the ups and downs of phase two is what’s known as being trauma bonded.
Trauma Bonded Signs
Some signs you are trauma bonded are:
- You feel stressed and unable to function until the narcissist throws you a crumb of attention. Even a throwaway, ‘no effort required answer to a message’ is enough to make you feel able to function. It doesn’t matter how they behave, you feel you can’t leave the relationship and feel panic-stricken at the thought of him not being in your life.
- You find yourself constantly worrying about how your partner will react. You go to great lengths to try and match their perfect vision of a girlfriend even if that goes against your values. You may also stop spending time with any friends that the narcissist disapproves of.
- You start covering up the narcissist’s behavior and making excuses for it eg he was just tired, I should never have suggested that restaurant, I shouldn’t have worn that outfit, etc.
Do Narcissists Feel The Trauma Bond?
Narcissists do not feel in the normal sense of the word. They do not have empathy and everyone is disposable. A narcissist will never form a bond with you, everything they told you during the love-bombing phase was just a farce to suck you in. They thrive on creating drama and feed off your trauma, it makes them feel powerful to know they have sucked you in then caused you pain.
The narcissist senses when you are trauma bonded but they don’t feel bonded towards you. They just recognize that you are bonded so they can start the abuse.
How To Break A Trauma Bond
- The first step is to realize that the person you had feelings for in the beginning isn’t real. He hid behind a mask and instead mirrored back to you everything you told him you wanted from a perfect partner. By mirroring you became hooked very easily and felt strong bonds. The real person is the person who takes pleasure in hurting you.
- Understand that he is never going to change. If you have been discarded and he’s now with someone else it may look like the perfect relationship but behind the scenes, the abuse will have started. Narcissists need fresh excitement and don’t want to settle down with one partner. Even if they marry, it’s only for home comforts, someone to cook and iron, a life status symbol to hide behind, outside of the home they will be on the prowl seeking out a fresh supply of attention.
- I know it feels like this is your soul mate, your twin flame but it’s not. Narcissists are often let into your life to show you a part that remains unhealed. Narcissists are always around but a healed person would not put up with what you have. If it’s hard to take in maybe take the emphasis off yourself and think of someone you admire, maybe someone famous like Madonna. Would she put up with this piece of crap? I think not so why are you? Something in the narcissist’s behavior feels familiar to you, usually stemming from childhood. Were you bullied at school and the silent treatment reminds you of that time in the playground? Maybe your parents got divorced and that past unsettling home life feels like the drama the narcissist is creating now. If this is the case, look at getting help for those past traumas.
- Work on self-care and self-esteem. Write your feelings down, seek help from a therapist. Trauma bonding has similar traits to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so it would be good to find a therapist who is specialized in PTSD recovery so they can understand why it’s so difficult to walk away from a toxic relationship.
- Read up on the law of attraction, make vision boards, allow yourself to dream about a new life, a fresh start. Look into yoga, meditation and calming the mind.
How Long Does Trauma Bonding Last?
It lasts as long as you are around the narcissist and don’t seek help and work on yourself. Going no contact is essential to give you space to fully experience the grief and recover. Trauma bonding is similar to an addiction to heroin, you can’t go cold turkey then go back for ‘a little bit’ because you need a pickup.
The only way out is through. You are going to feel awful, you are going to crave to be back with the narcissist but the sooner you get the soul sucker out of your life, the sooner you start the healing process.
No contact means blocking on socials, blocking messages, changing your number if necessary and avoiding places he frequents. Like I said you will ache with grief, sadness and withdrawal but please remember he will never change, do you really want this cycle for the rest of your life or is it time to say enough I’m worth more?