How to tell if you are trauma bonded with an abuser

How to tell if you're in a trauma bond with an abuser

If you find yourself in a pattern of being magnetically drawn to toxic relationships then you could be trauma bonding with an abuser. In fact, you can overlook the signs of abuse, when they feel so madly in love. How can you tell if you are in a trauma bond with an abuser and recognize the signs of a trauma bond in an abusive relationship?

In order to recognize if you’re trauma bonding with abuser, you may notice that you will do whatever it takes to get the love from an abuser in order to escape the despair of feeling unloved or discarded. This is because love is a fundamental need, but why does a person seek love from an abuser?

How to detect if you’re trauma bonding with an abusive partner? Trauma bonding occurs as the result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates powerful emotional bonds that are resistant to change. Therefore, abuse is accepted with the reinforcement of love that can form a strong bond that is difficult to break.  So how does the illusion of being loved camouflage the abuse?

In trauma bonding the attachment bond is so strong that it stops the victim seeing the abuse, confusing it for love.

In the love bombing stage of an abusive relationship, you can quickly feel deeply in love when you’re being idealised, when they hook you into the relationship.

Once you’ve been lured into a relationship with someone who confesses how much they love you, you don’t really notice the red flags of abuse when they slowly creep in. The feeling of love overrides everything else.

The intense feeling of love can cloud your judgement, causing you to overlook the signs of abuse and mistake it for love.

You can convince yourself that the insults or put downs can mean that he or she loves you so much, telling yourself that they’re just being honest with you.

When they turn the problem around to be your fault, you end up believing them because you trust them, more than you trust yourself or your judgement.

Slowly, you lose yourself because you feel your abuser knows you better than you, because you believe they love you so much.

Gradually, the abuse becomes accepted and tolerated, when you find ways to get them to love you. You’ll do whatever it takes to get the love you crave for, at the expense of yourself.

You can get hooked on the love bombing and want more. When you get abused you learn to behave so you get the love.

The actual truth is, the abuser often needs the relationship for supplies in order to fuel the empty void within themselves, or  controls the relationship to make up for their own insecurities.

You can be punished if you don’t comply, forcing you to give into their every need, until you gradually become controlled and fear the person.

The neediness, possessiveness and jealously can be disguised as love. Their actual insecurity can look like he or she wants you so much, but in actual fact, it’s a way to control you.

In order to maintain the fantasy of being loved, you end up feeling sorry for them or want to help the person who is abusing you or controlling you. The more you focus on them, you lose sight of  yourself.

It feels like love, but it is not real love. A person who loves you will not abuse you.

Signs of Trauma Bonding with an abuser

  •  You deny or justify the abuse as being your fault, as though you deserved it.
  • You do not believe the threats, you think they’re just venting their frustration.
  •  You feel a strong powerful bond that stops you seeing the actual person’s behaviour.
  •  You interpret the abuse as signs of love – he wants to spend all his time with me
  •  You see their best intentions and do not reconize the harm to you.
  •  You want to fix your partner.
  • You hold onto the hope they can change, no matter what they’ve done to you.
  • You make escuses for your partner and placate their anger.
  • You stop expressing yourself, needs and wants to avoid conflict.
  • You end up walking on egg shells and pleasing them.
  • You listen to them because they love you.
  •  You sacrifice your needs and wants to meet their needs.
  • You will be good and comply to feel loved and avoid being discarded or  punished.
  • You eventualy submit out of fear
  • You fear leaving will escalate the abuse

What causes you to be trauma bonded in an abusive relationship?

If you survived childhood abuse or trauma, you may have learned ways to cope that allowed you to put the pain out of your awareness for safe keeping. You can feel loved if you don’t allow yourself to feel the hurt towards loved ones, so you can suppress painful feelings. It’s a survival need to feel loved and you’ll do whatever it takes to feel loved.

According to attachment theory, an emotionally attuned and loving attachment to a caregiver is required for the child to feel secure within themselves and their relationships. If their emotional needs were not met, the child feels insecure about themselves and relationships.

Feeling securely attached and loved is essential in obtaining self-love, otherwise the person keeps searching for love in whatever way worked with a care-giver. This search for unmet love can repeat itself into adulthood.

In order to derive the feeling of being loved the child learns to adapt their behaviour in particular ways in order to get the love that they need. These attachment strategies allows them to obtain the intermitted feeling of love from a care-giver.

Trauma bonding develops during the attachment bond that is created through repetitious abusive or traumatic childhood experiences that causes this pattern to become internalized as a learned pattern of behaviour.

If you related to your parent through a trauma bond, you’re familiar with adapting your behaviour to fit in with an abuser in order to get the love you needed from them. This may mean walking on egg shells to avoid conflict or pleasing them so you can feel loved.

It is easy to put the abuse outside of one’s awareness when you crave love from an abuser.

You can suppress yourself to accommodate the needs of an abuser in order to avoid their emotional outbursts. You can end up putting up with abuse in the hope of feeling loved.

If you had unmet needs of love, such as emotional neglect, or abuse, you can also develop feelings of love towards an abuser in relationships. Being drawn to an abusive partner allows you to vicariously stay attached to the parental abuser, with the hope of making up for unmet love.

You can sacrifice yourself for love, giving up your own needs in the never-ending conquest of finding love.

If you experienced abuse in childhood, the way you sought love can become a familiar pattern, being drawn to abusive partners in ways that feels familiar to you. This traumatic attachment bond allows you to become hooked on the toxic relationship by finding ways to get the love you long for.

But what happens when the other person discards you or abuses you? Once you experience the withdrawal of love, you end up chasing your abuser to get back the original feeling from the love bombing, going back to the abuser and ignoring the abuse altogether.

In trauma bonding with an abuser, you can end up minimising and denying the abuse, in the hope of getting love, when you’ve become emotionally dependent on an abusive relationship. The bond is so strong that you fear losing it and you will try hard to fix your partner.

The desire for love can be the perfect bait that an abusive narcissist hook into. When you’re meeting all their needs, you feel loved and good enough, which allows the abuse to continue.

If you internalised that you were not good enough then you can learn to please your abuser as a way to get the love you want. You end up attracting abusive partners with the wish to be good enough for them, so you get the love and approval you’re looking for.

Abuse can feel normal because it’s the internal bond that keeps you attached to the parental abuser, so that you do not face the underlying pain of abandonment.

Sometimes, it is hard to break the cycle of abuse with an abuser and face the feelings of abandonment, because it brings up the pain of the original longing, causing the person to find ways to re-attach themselves to the abuser. So, it feels more comfortable staying attached to the abuser through a toxic trauma bond, in order to hold onto the feeling of being loved.

Being attached through a trauma bond allows you to avoid facing the pain of unmet love in the hope that an abuser can make you feel good enough.

How to spot if you’re trauma bonding and how to fix it

A big clue that you’re trauma bonded with an abuser, is when you ignore the signs of abuse and mistake it for love. 

Sometimes it is hard to give the relationship a reality check that it deserves. The real antidote to letting go of abuse is recognizing the signs of abuse.

You can recover by learning to trust your own judgement, identify the red flags of abuse and not let your need for love blind you into a fantasy that is not real love. If you ground yourself in reality, you can notice the signs of abusive and not confuse it for love.

You can tell if you’re trauma bonded with an abuser because the loving feelings are magnified and disprotioate to how the person really treats you. In a trauma bond you can overlook the abuse or controlling behaviour because you think it’s love.

If you learn to find love within yourself, you can give up the hope of obtaining unmet love and go for healthy relationship that you truly deserve. If you heal the  attachment wounds deep down within yourself, you can rebuild yourself,  while recognize the red flags of abuse, and not distort it as love.

Nancy Carbone is a relationship therapist with a M Soc.Sc (Couns) who overcomes stuck relationship patterns. If you want to break the cycle of abuse from trauma bonding contact Nancy at Counselling Service Melbourne or sign up on her newsletter for free advice and tips on relationship matters.

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