What abusers hope we never learn about trauma bonding

Do you think you can’t leave your abusive partner? Do you feel hopeless when you return to a relationship filled with pain? Or, do you dwell on your toxic ex and struggle to stay away? Then you may be caught in a carefully crafted trauma bond – but you don’t need to be Houdini to escape.

Photo by Clearly Ambiguous

Photo by Clearly Ambiguous

Traumatic bonding is a hit with abusers, because it helps him to maintain much-needed control. It helps him keep you where he wants you: tethered to him and his soul-destroying behaviour. But, the bond isn’t as iron-clad as he imagines. Here’s FIVE things he hopes you don’t know about traumatic-bonding, and how to shake off the shackles.

1. What is trauma bonding?

Traumatic-bonding is an intense attachment to your abuser. It happens when you feel emotionally and physically dependent upon a dominant partner – who dishes out abuse and rewards so you believe that he’s all-powerful.

“powerful emotional attachments are seen to develop from two specific features of abusive relationships: power imbalances and intermittent good-bad treatment.”(Dutton and Painter, 1981)

2. Abusers reward and abuse to maintain power

Your abuser is all about power and control. He (or she) systematically erodes your ability to think and act independently, using a range of manipulative tactics which may include:

  • physically abusing or intimidating you
  • gas-lighting you so you doubt our own judgement
  • isolating you from friends and family that may be able to help
  • manipulative lies designed to undermine your self-esteem and run you down
  • making sure that your time, energy and other resources are focussed on solely his needs
  • keeping you continually short of money (financial abuse).

What’s more, most abusers pepper their abuse with ‘rewards for good behaviour’. Maybe you get a thank-you kiss for managing to get his dinner on the table at the right time. Perhaps he takes you out for dinner to make up for last night’s drunken tirade. You may have heard – at least once, and probably repeatedly – that you are the best thing that ever happened to him (when he isn’t labelling you a  worthless whore, that is). You feel relief, hope, and even happiness – however temporary.

3. Abusers want us to feel dependent

Photo by Occhi Rivoluzionari

Photo by Occhi Rivoluzionari

He controls whether you are happy or sad, whether you are safe or in pain, if you are secure and comfortable or lonely and filled with self-loathing. Under this determined conditioning, you may (inaccurately) believe he is stronger than you. While this may make you cleave to him for protection, it also fuels your sense of powerlessness – making it harder to challenge or escape him.

In time, like a baby, you feel dependent upon your abuser for all of your emotional and physical needs. You form a powerful emotional attachment to him, which he doggedly reinforces through a pattern of abuse and reward.

Learning theorists have found that this intermittent reinforcement/punishment pattern develops the strongest of emotional bonds. Particularly intense relationships and extreme abuse forms even stronger feelings of attachment.

The trauma bond from intermittent abuse and power imbalance makes it hard but not impossible to escape domestic violence.

Tweet: Trauma bond from intermittent abuse & power imbalance makes it hard but not impossible to leave #DomesticViolence http://ctt.ec/kbZHn+

This powerful attachment – which arises directly from sustained periods of intermittent abuse and power imbalance – is known as traumatic-bonding.

4. Resisting the bond isn’t easy, but we can break free

Some suggest that the trauma bond triggers biological changes as well as emotional ones. This may cause you to be dependent on the highs and lows of the abuse cycle. Going ‘cold turkey’ seems impossible.

In addition, abusers are difficult to shake off. To get free, you have likely endured physical or emotional assaults including emotional blackmail and hoovering campaigns. These are the abuser’s attempts to maintain control, and they haul repeatedly on the trauma-bond to do it.

Often, you bounce back because – painful though it is to live with an abuser – your sense of self-reliance is utterly eroded and it hurts to battle the emotional attachment to him. I was only able to successfully leave my abuser on the third serious attempt. Many other times I was determined to leave, but didn’t.

5. Time really is a healer

Photo by wwarby

Photo by wwarby

To stay out, I had to fight not only my abuser and his determined hoovering – I also had to fight myself. Many times I wanted to answer his calls. Often, I lay in bed at night, imagining the route I’d drive to get back to him. I could just hop in the car and go! That would stop the ache in my ribs, right? When he came to my door to insist on my return, a part of me cried out to give in each time.

I was exhausted, hypersensitive and anxious – all symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Waves of grief and pangs of longing left me breathless. But, as his hoovering turned to stalking, I listened to my head rather than my heart. Sticking to my Essential To Do list, the trauma-bond weakened with each day that passed. Life got easier. I grew stronger.

Researchers have found that after six months, attachment decreases by about 27 per cent. For those of us struggling with traumatic bonding, time really is a healer.

REMEMBER:

“You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win.” (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels)

You are always stronger than your abuser. You have the ability to leave, at any time. Getting out is hard, but not impossible. You  can help yourself by recognising that it is not love that’s pulling you back – rather, it’s a powerful emotional attachment that he created as a direct result of his abuse. The avalanche of emotions that you feel are normal. You are not crazy or weak because you feel that tug on the trauma-bond. In time, the bond will weaken – and working on your own recovery can help this process along.

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Have you felt the pull of the trauma bond? How did it make you feel, and what impact did it have?

ALSO SEE: Find out if you are trapped by traumatic-bonding, in Why we stay: trauma bonding.

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154 responses to “What abusers hope we never learn about trauma bonding

  1. Thank you for making this available to all of us. It’s not that I thought I was invincible to abusive relationships, but perhaps I never realized what an abusive relationship was. When I had heard of domestic violence I had only heard of the absolute worse situations, but now I know these situations don’t begin that way, I was blinded to the fact it was a ‘too good to be true’ situation.
    I have left my abuser multiple times. I have even moved out only to spend a majority of my time at his place. Yesterday was the first day though I felt like I could actually leave and be done with it. I still feel the same today. I can’t help but doubt myself though, what if I go back? What if I can’t resist him? And at the same time I have felt completely nauseous.
    I met my abuser in college and he came from the West Coast. I knew nothing about him which I’m sure made it much easier for him to deceive me. What I’m trying to get at, is that I’m trying to find some closure. I want to know what he was like before he met me. If I had known what he was capable of, could I have avoided him? It doesn’t matter either way I suppose, I just want to make sense of how everything became this way.
    If you’re in the same/similar situation and you’re reading this, please know that you are in my thoughts.

    Like

    • Hi MissMelissa

      I’m really sorry to hear that you’re in this situation. It is VERY tough, and the pull of the trauma bond is painful to resist. I felt that way too, and it took months of strict No Contact (enforced by the police as he was stalking me at the time) post relationship for me to feel strong again. It was at that point that I started to see how much better my life was without him, I finally had the head-space I needed to realise it. You CAN do it, and you will because you’re determined to be free. My family helped me a lot during this time – do you have a support network you can lean on?

      You ask about closure. I’m going to be really honest here and tell you that the very last thing an abuser wants to do is give you closure. That would mean giving up the last shred of control they perceive themselves to have. It is hard (I struggle with it too, even years later) to do, but you must make your own closure, by investing in your own recovery and healing. Maybe check out my article on Staying out of An Abusive Relationship for some ideas on how you can move yourself forward: https://avalancheofthesoul.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/staying-out-of-an-abusive-relationship-an-essential-to-do-list/

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your kind words.

      Like

    • MissMelissa, – I too moved out only to spend a majority of my time at his place. UGH. And now, I’m looking to never going back. Having the talk frightens me. He is a master manipulator and I doubt my own strength to stay away. You are in my thoughts as well.
      Jadzia

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      • Don’t talk. Run. Disengage. No contact. It’s the only way. I still feel anxious he will find me some day. I know he will try.

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  3. Even after I learned what trauma bonds were, and realized that what I was experiencing when I left my ex, it took me a few years to break free. I felt hopeless and helpless…my trauma bonds were out to kill me if I did not go back. Sweet relief when I did! But the, after two weeks, two months, etc the cycle of abuse would start again. I began to think my trauma bonds would keep me trapped in this destructive cycle until I was utterly destroyed. People who have never experienced a trauma bond can’t understand who very hard it is to stay away from your abuser…it can make you feel so alone and isolated. But I was lucky to find support online among others like me, and have a support circle that led to real life friendships. Don’t despair if you feel like I did, trapped by your trauma bonds with no one to support or understand you. There is hope…there is help. Reach for it. Your blog is one of the best when it comes to helping others…your articles are clear, concise, and very wise. I thank you for it, from the bottom of my heart.

    One thing still haunts me thought….a year after the end. Did my ex really know what he was doing? Sometimes I think he did….although he did not know he was creating a trauma bond. But I think he knew, on some level, how to throw out his net, reel me in under his spell…but he could not keep me. I got stronger and stronger, as I worked on myself and got support from others…so that even when my trauma bonds went on the attack…I survived them until they began to release.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Just seen this discussion after researching my own abuse. I am a 40 year old male with a 29 year old abuser. I used to be a dominant male but now I am subjected to abuse in front of my kids. Which is the reason I don’t fight back. I can’t contact authorities because I would have my kids in care. I can’t leave because I would be leaving my kids in care of my abuser. Any advice

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    • Hi Keith. So sorry this is happening to you. Can you elaborate a little on why you can’t go to the authorities? Also, please be aware that there are other sources of support available – domestic abuse charities and services, depending on where you live. Please don’t give up. You and your children deserve to live free from abuse.

      Like

    • I think you are lying and manipulating with facts. You’ve done some researches and you may be looking for confirmation and attention.

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  5. This goes both ways not just for men but also for women who do not know how to tell the truth after caught in a lie and then swear she is telling truth

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  6. Excellent post. It takes a long time to get over.
    Even that 27 percent decrease in trauma bond after 6 months, still leaves a lot left.

    I have been out for 7 months. I do not miss him all the time anymore or even think about him nearly as often.

    But there is still a feeling of …what Ross Rosenberg referrs to as “pathological lineliness”

    I think that is worse than missing them. I believe that many people go back because of this. People with C-PTSD have trouble being alone.

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    • I absolutely agree, gentlekindness, recovery is a tough slog and often a long process. Not surprising then, that those of us trying to move on from an abusive relationship are more vulnerable to abusive people – who are often expert in spotting and exploiting that vulnerability. It’s why I always advise women to take time alone to recover before embarking on a new romance. I’ve been free two years, it’s taken me a lot of hard work to get to the point where I’m comfortable being alone.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have been diagnosed with ptsd from abuser and other life situations. For me it has been over a year since I have had any contact. I had to move to a different state. That saved my life. Now he is in jail from stealing my debit card. Omg the pull to contact him is sometimes unbearable. I rationalize in my head that God wants me to minister to him and that is why I can’t get him out of my head. I pray that he will go away and quit haunting me. He very physically and mentally abusive. He has NPD. Anyway my question is will this ever get easier? It’s been over a year and up until a week or so ago I struggle every single day with writing him. I think God is helping bc the pay week hasn’t been nearly as bad. I can’t explain the longing, yearning to tell him what going on in my life, just to talk to him. And he’s awful, yes the trauma bond is stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced

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  7. I am sorry about my english.
    I am experiencing this right now and I am both amazed and terrified at how addicted and powerless I feel. The main conflict with disconnecting from the abuser for me deems from knowing each other since we were kids. We hanged out until our late teens and he was the sweetest, most innocent guy I have ever met. Our connection was purely platonic. Then we went our separate ways for 14 years, reconnecting in the last 4 years over facebook and phone, Skype on a daily basis. Immediately, I felt like a kid again, and blame myself for believing that this person was remotely the same. We finally met after 15 years and within a week he was putting me down, name calling. We got involved sexually which was the biggest mistake. By the third time we has sex he shoved a pillow on my face violently (smoothering me)and said demeaning things. I found out he started abusing heroin when he was 19 and was on antipsychotic meds. His brain chemistry is totally whacked and I believe his emotional development came to an halt from all the self abuse. He would blame any reaction from my part as being due to an oversensitive nature, emotionally eroded my self esteem to the point of me feeling suicidal. I had so much self hatred that I ended up doing something I have never considered when in a relationship. I got super drunk and had sex with some random guy, all while being absent from my body. Extreme self loathe and the feeling of utter rejection from someone I adored since I was a kid. then proceeded to cutting myself which I never had done before.As soon as I saw my ex I couldn’t hold it and told him the truth while sobbing.Things got pretty violent after that and the cops were called on him by the neighbors. He just got deported yesterday after doing 6 months in jail. I feel an horrible guilt over all this.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It is admirable to see a woman who has gone through an abusive relationship be free from it today and moreover be able to talk about it and analyze it. I find, for me, talking about it is the hardest part.

    At the risk of sounding silly, I have to say I hesitated for a long time whether to call the relationship I was in abusive. The thing is that it was never physically abusive, therefore I felt like the emotional hurt I was feeling inside of me might just be my fault, a result of my own interpretation of events. I have been keeping an unhealthy connection with my ex boyfriend for eight years now. He was my first love and also the first man I was intimate with, therefore he has a place in my life and memory that cannot be replaced. After our passionate but not very lengthy relationship crashed and burned (I was young and handled it all wrong), he went back to his previous girlfriend and has been with her ever since.
    When I say we have been keeping a connection, I mean that once every year or two, we see each other again in an intimate way.
    He always tried to keep alive a nostalgic and emotionally dependant bond between us, especially at first, and I always fell in the trap. At first I truly believe he was doing this because he loved me, but as I grew more and more damaged by being kept on the back burner and him being more and more emotionally distant and constipated, I knew that what I thought was the love of the century definitely had cracks I hadn’t suspected before.
    The reason I’m so touched by your article is way it gave a name to what I’ve been experiencing the last few years, trauma bonding.

    I am a very strong woman in life, and also believe to be a very good and fair person, yet the way I have behaved in regards to this relationship is very weak and devious. I truly feel a lot of mixed emotions towards my ex, and cannot count the times I told myself I was never speaking to him again. Yet being strong and lucid escapes me once a year, and either I call him or I respond to his requests to talk to me. I take responsibility for the wrong I have done to myself and in general, but this trauma bonding behavior certainly shed some light on my inner turmoil and subsequent behavior. Thank you for writing this article, you helped me and I’m sure you are helping many other women as well.

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    • Hi there

      I’m glad you found the article useful. No doubt about it, writing about this stuff hurts – but it also heals, because in writing about trauma we can order it, make sense of it, and even learn from it. You’ve done a great job sharing your story, and if you’re comfortable please continue to do so! You’re not being silly. The only thing I’d ask is that you don’t minimise your experiences, the way so many of us habitually do. We compare ourselves to others and think ‘Well, I shouldn’t complain because that person had it worse’. I for one am so pleased that this article had helped you, because until I learned about trauma bonding I blamed myself terribly for loving an abusive man. I thought I was weak, but I was stronger than I believed. You are too, and you CAN break this destructive tie to your ex.

      Liked by 1 person

    • When i read this its very close to my experience. My abuser was never physical but severely emotional and mental. I was in a 20 year relationship with my kids and very little affection and ended that marriage so when i met the abuser he flood me with affection and very close inimite times with him not only sexually but a closeness that a relationship is suppose to have that i always wanted from my marriage …soo when i left the abuser and hes in prison for what he did i miss him cant stop thinking of him and crave the closeness and desperatly want that sexual inimite closeness again. …. So just sharing to say not all is physical abuse and glad to read im not the only on

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  9. Hi, thank you so much for posting this. I love reading things about abusive relationships/PTSD to better understand what is happening to me. But I have one question. I broke up with my abuser 9 months ago, so why is the trauma bonding still so bad? I can’t go a single day without thinking about him or relating something to him.

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  10. I’ve read through a few of your articles and it’s been really helpful. I even now keep rationalizing things and thinking that maybe I’m just blowing everything out of proportion. I keep thinking to myself “But he only hit me twice so maybe it’s not abuse” or “but it’s not as bad as other women go through so who am I to complain” and things that just sort of break down my walls and make me think that maybe my view of him is wrong and he really is just this great guy and not abusive at all and I’m just a “crazy girl” like he tells people.

    And then I read articles like this, and the one about Hoovering and it fits to a T. We don’t have kids cause I am younger so that never came into play but everything else is just gut wrenchingly accurate. And these help me tell myself that okay maybe he did only hit me twice but if I go back it will only escalate. And I’m not crazy like he says but I do see him accurately. And I just want to thank you. Whenever it’s hard to stay away I try and read things like this to remind myself.

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  11. Its amazing you talk about the ache in your ribs. Mines in my right rib, and happens when I start to feel attachment toward my abusive mother! Its like my exes dont even matter since she hurt me so bad! Its no wonder I didnt leave home when I shouldve! I felt so stuck yet so drained I couldnt even talk or recognize myself yet I stayed and felt hopeless/helpless

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  12. Ive came out of a very abusive marriage of 13 years.i had years of emotional.physical and eventually sexual abuse.my trauma bonds some days make me feel like im dying without him.im away 16 months and its agony even though i know in my heart il be dead if i go back.i struggle every day to stay away.

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  13. I’d like to hear more about this when its a parent who’s the abuser. My husband is having PTSD issues stemming from his childhood. His dad had depression and his mom is a narcissist.. I’m trying to deal with this and help him. He is in therapy and it has been helping. His mother is no mother. I can’t help thinking she never bonded with her babies. From the beginning I felt her to be odd. My husband is now 54 years old and was triggered when he had to have a series of operations and when I became friends with a lady I worked with. Also my mother passed away shortly thereafter. These things brought him back to another time and he started to take it out on me. Lucky for me I knew it wasn’t me and it hasn’t been easy proofing to him that I am not his mother. The other thing is how he seems to take on his mother’s behavior kinda of Jeckel and Hyde. He is realizing this and it makes him feel emotionally crazy. I don’t know how but I am still here. I think she has always known that I knew what she really was because she could never get to me or our kids. Right now he has stopped contact and hopefully one day he will feel stronger and proud.

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  14. I don’t know what to do, my situation isn’t even close to as bad as many others but I can’t let go, it’s not even him following me, it’s me making excuses to be around him. He used to have random phases of ignoring me without explanation, so it feels like this is just one of them, and any moment he’ll be back to how he was. I can’t picture not having him, I don’t know what to do. Another person is trying to start a relationship with me but my relationship with the person before has screwed so much up. I see the relationship first as a way to make someone jealous, second as a war for who cares least, and third as a cause of panic because everytime any little thing happens I prepare myself to be ignored. Finally, the whole world feels dull as described here. I just want our relationship to re-start from the beggining so I can change how I acted and maybe somehow change something

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  15. This may have saved my life. I feel like an addict, crying in bed because I miss him, thinking stuff like “he wasn’t really so bad, I am making it worse than it was. I just need to feel like he is there again, like I belong somewhere, maybe we can be friends at least”. So many things in this article and in the to do-list opened my eyes.
    Thank you so much for sharing this.
    I just hope I will get through this, it is so hard doing it all by myself.

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  16. This is excellent information. When I decided to leave my long time abuser, I left myself notes all the time. I recorded a message to myself on my phone when I was strong for times when I wasn’t. They come like a rollercoaster and are so painful. I don’t do drugs or drink but I likened the pull to him and pain from him to a heroin addiction. No matter how bad he treated me, I couldn’t keep my focus off of him. I would get a rush of adrenaline just thinking of him texting or emailing. I knew this would lessen over time and I just had to use all my will power to detach and wait it out. I am so glad! My life is good now. I sleep. I spend time alone and am happy. I dream. I have friends. If I don’t want to cook supper, I don’t. I have power over my life again. Life is good.

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  17. Trauma bonding is like Stockholm Syndrome. Unfortunately manipulative and abusive people tend to shift between being charming and abusive or exploitative. Bosses, supposed friends, colleagues, partners, siblings, therapists, teachers, priests… Perhaps learn to recognise signs of abuse and KNOW YOURSELF to avoid incorporating or accepting invalid putdowns or falling for false flattery. Expecting constant praise from an all-loving other rather than learning to value yourself independent of external output helps break the addictive love high/low cycle. Question charm and flattery as a request soon follows to meet the charming devil’s agenda. Charm and flattery are highly manipulative tools used by leaders and manipulators to create a positive outcome that benefits them. Charm is merely the flipside to criticism when it comes to gaining control or manipulating people to serve your needs. Don’t be a performing poodle.

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  18. Leaving an abusive relationship feels painful as breaking even bad bonds literally hurts the brain and body. This is why many who have been abused stumble into addictions as a quick fix to cope with pain. Meditation, distraction by goal setting and deep breathing help with the arousal symptoms as you pull way. Unfortunately many abusers isolate their victims and the loneliness can leave you vulnerable to returning. Fill your life with positive activities, solid goals and venture out to meet more people and your strength and confidence will slowly return. Good luck.

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  19. I found your article be very interesting. I only recently started looking up information about trauma bonding. There are a lot of similarities, but maybe I am looking to deep or not deep enough. I don’t know anymore. Your article upset me, because I saw myself so much in there. It hurt because I am that person. The Stockholm Syndrome part made me tear up as I was talking myself down.

    Everything started when I was 18. I had left an abusive relationship only 4 months prior and I had been sober from cocaine (my ex got me addicted to that) for about a month, when he asked me out and asked me to move in all at once. He suggested that I quit talking to all my old friends to prevent a possible relapse, which I did because it made sense at the time. He hated everyone I met from the call center job I have. Always asks why I have to find the lowest lifes and hang with them. Tells me that I don’t know how to make good real friends. I quit trying.

    Fast forward 6 months: We are still dating I have a decent job working in an ER as patient support specialist, signing people in, taking their ins information, and so on. One day I said in passing that one of the Drs would do nice things for me from time to time if it was a slow night. I immediately got yelled because I was way too stupid and blind to see that he was making an advance on me. That was a several month fight that I was always apologizing for in the end. “I wasn’t flirting.” “Can people just do nice stuff for people?” “You are right, you know more about the behavior and intentions of men than I do.” “Baby I’m really sorry.” “Sorry I didn’t know.”

    Sexually I did what he wanted pretty much when he wanted it. Multiple prior experiences had taught me saying yes was safer, than saying no, because no didn’t always stop what was happening and I didn’t want to possibly get hurt. I did and continue to do things that I don’t want to do because it’s easier.

    I got pregnant. We fought over what would happen and he gave me an ultimatum of keeping the baby and losing him or lose the baby and keep him. I stood up for myself for the first time in over a year and left. I moved back to my home town and in with my oldest sister. He would call me everyday. Saying that he was sorry. That he didn’t mean it. He was scared. That I should come home. That lasted about a month before I was back living with him again. This time with no job and solely dependent on him.

    He started negelcting me when I wanted attention from him. He said that I wasn’t emotional enough for him. I will give him that, verbally emoting and sharing is not something that I do with him. Every time I do I get emotionally torn down, told that is a lie, or I made something up to pacify him. So why should he give me something that I needed if I can’t meet his needs. I fold in on myself.

    Fast forward 7 years: We have 3 kids now. Still solely dependent on him for everything. His friends are the only ones I have. Luckily his best friend’s wife is more my friend. We were joking around about doing amateur night at a strip club. We were giggling and laughing at how horrible we be at it. After she left my husband started pushing to actually go and audition. I finally caved and went to try out. I got hired and started 2 nights later. I wanted to quit after the first night, but he said give it a least week. My second night working the manager took an extreme interest in me.. Told me a girl like me shouldn’t be here. I was much too nice, quiet, intelligent, and passive to be a stripper or work in the sex industry. He invited me over after work and I accepted. He and I talked about everything that I couldn’t say to my husband. That was the start of a very violent affair. My husband got tired of me not being home and told me I was going to quit. I said no. He immediately asked who he was because I never, ever told him no. He wanted me to tell him what kind of ideas this guy been putting into my head. I can’t have my own thoughts and feelings, they have to be someone else’s. I quit the club when he threatened to take the kids away. I didn’t end my affair. I kept seeing him. My husband got wise to the affair and I told him what happened between the manager and myself. He in turn got physically violent, emotionally/psychologically, and sexually abusive. I hurt his ego. For months I had to tell him every time I got off the phone with him that I was a whore and didn’t love him. I had to tell him I was worthless. That I was lucky to have him because I was such a worthless whore. That I was less than a person because of what I did. He constantly threatened to take the kids way if I didn’t do this or that. He’d force himself on me, but I was too afraid to say no because of violence and threats. He started drinking and heavily. We move to Florida.

    Florida: I agreed to a different kind of relationship if he didn’t take the kids way. One where he had complete control over everything I did. He controlled what I did, who I talked to, what I wore, what and when I ate, how much I could weigh, where I could go and how long I could stay. If I broke curfew he’d accuse me of cheating and punish me. He told me one day that I could tell him when he had too much to drink… I did… I paid the price… he hit me for telling him he was drunk. He set me up on purpose and I walked right into it. I still can’t help but wonder if he was going to hit me no matter what I said. I contemplated suicide at one point and he had me baker acted. I was in a psych ward for 48hrs. He said he would use this against me in court if I left. During this time he also said that if I left he’d hunt me down, bring me back, and make sure that I wouldn’t leave again.

    Today: I’m still with him after 14yrs. We have 4 kids together now. I suspect that he got me pregnant on purpose with our 4th. Our 3rd child was getting ready to enter kindergarten so I would have free time to persue school, a job, volunteer work. He knows that I am fiercely against abortion and would never have one. I am still solely dependent on him for everything. He encourages me to go to school but then asks if I can handle it. He says that he doesn’t want a repeat of the strip club. I don’t know if I will ever be able to leave. I don’t know if his threat of hunting me down is talk or if he will actually do it.

    My fear is that I have been with him my entire adult life; I don’t know how to function outside of his wants, needs, demands, and desires. He keeps telling me that I was made for him. That I am his. Also says that if I did ever leave and found someone else, that person would be a lot worse than him.

    Feeling trapped

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    • Hi Kitty,
      the mere fact that you’re not sure whether you experienced trauma bonding explains it all! A psychological abuser works his/her way into your brain in a way that makes all this crazy stuff look NORMAL, FAMILIAR, just “drama” or “over the line” but not abuse…!
      Men like your husband are PATHOLOGICAL LIARS, they’ve never been really loved by their parents and they don’t know what unconditionate love and what sacrificing for someone means. You clearly do instead: you stayed with him to protect your kids. Do you understand now?
      It’s not true that you wouldn’t get the kids! It’s not true that he loves you. He has NO IDEA what love is and probably he will never find out in his life!
      I had a boyfriend that had the exact same behaviour. I left him when I saw that he was NOT THERE in time of need, like I did. I had a heavy surgery done and he had flexible working schedule that he could have arranged for my scheduled surgery…he didn’t.
      When I left him and decided to break up he did promise me the moon too.
      He kept calling and texting, I felt like I was haunted by a stalker. He kept sending mixed feeling texts….”I will always love you” cheesy-kind of texts followed by “you are a whore I can’t believe you destroyed our relationship” kind of texts…
      He treated me so badly for about 2 years. Not all of it was bad but he was USING ME emotionally and economically. I exited the relationship broke and feeling abandoned because when my health was endangered he DID NOT support me at all. He owned me money and I had to wait months to get to have my money back….
      I was so crazy hooked up with him I let him mistreat me, on few occasion he was violent physically.
      When he slapped me just because I told him twice to move out of my way in our shared flat tiny bathroom, I had my wake-up call.

      I felt SOOO much better after breaking up. It was hard to do so also economically because I didn’t have the money to pay the rent for two. But it was totally worth it.
      It did help to have my family support and an old ex of mine back into my life.
      You have to get out of your misery with the help of your community, your family, the social services etc. It’s SO totally worth it! Having control over your life is priceless. And think about your kids as well: is this what you want them to learn from you? That sacrifice for others is everything and that your own life is worth nothing?

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  23. I broke up with my ex a month ago. I asked him to leave “our” apartment (never paid any of the rent or costs for living together, etc.) I thought I was getting better. I moved, I started trying to tell myself I was a good person with good intentions- and then I went out with my friends one night and ended up messaging him AFTER 4 WEEKS OF NO CONTACT! I was so embarrassed and mad at myself because I felt I lost. I was trying to show him that I was better and stronger than mistreatment. He called me the next day, and now we are back to telling each other we love each other and spending time. I have riddled with anxiety all the time- I have this burning numbness in my arms chest and stomach all the time wondering “what happens next?” Does he keep abusing drugs and making me false promises? Will he ever change? Did he ever love me? Will he ever love me? How could we ever be together when no one wants to see it happen? I’m killing myself with obsessive thoughts when I’m with him or not. I love him so much it rips my heart out. Please. Anyone. I’m at my wits end. Any advice for someone that can’t seem to hold it together or even relax EVER?

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    • Hey. First thing: don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not sure if you’re in an abusive relationship or not, but the fact you’re reading this article suggests you may be. If that’s the case, I want to tell you that I stood where you are too. I left my violent partner and honestly, it took me a while before I felt I could even function without him. But day by day it got easier, and now I can’t even imagine how my life would have been if I’d stayed. You’re more powerful than you think. You can do it too. Do any of your friends/relatives know what’s going on? Do you have someone who you can reach out to for support? When you’re deep in a trauma bond, you need support – WordPress has a wonderful survivor community who will help you in your journey out of this, if that’s what you want.

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    • Don’t BELIEVE HIS LIES.
      He contraddicts himself, doesn’t he? When he’s afraid to loose you, he’s nice. When you’re staying, he despises you? Am I right?
      Then forget it. He uses you. His love is a big fat lie…
      This kind of people uses others!
      I broke up with my ex, he moved out. Guess what? Now he lives half a week with his parents, half a week by a friend of his. Even if he works and earns money, he doesn’t pay a penny to his friend. He’s just the kind of person that will use people if he’s given the chance!!!!!!!
      Sounds familiar?

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      • Its been SO hard. Like, I love him. And when I’m without him I feel stressed and anxious but I feel I’m getting stronger because I’m making decisions based on MY OWN happiness now. But I still have anxiety that I’m going to do something to upset him and he’ll treat me badly. I don’t know how to end the cycle. Do you have any advice?

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      • Its so difficult. Because I feel as though I get stronger everyday. I’m starting to choose myself which I NEVER used to do. It was always about him and what he needed. And when I choose myself and my activities he seems to be really distant and rude to me. I’m not sure how to say “no”. How do you say no without hurting someone’s feelings? But also, protecting my own? I don’t want him always sleeping over at my house and invading my space, but at the same time, I don’t want him to be mad. Any advice is good advice at this point.

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  24. I have left my husband after more than 23 years. This is not my first attempt at leaving him but this time I went to court and got possession of our home to sell it on my own without his consent because he would not leave or sell it or agree to separate. I was living in my room for almost 4 years, while my four grown children were living in the rest of the home with my husband, and he was abusing drugs, and controlling them and me and our household. Refusing to work, refusing to do anything in the home and living in a haze of drugs and anger and mood swings. The name calling, The lies. Intimidating looks when ever I would question him about anything. Making me feel like I was the one going crazy. Playing on the fact that even though I was working two jobs to maintain our home, and I suffer from bypolar disorder, I was losing my mind. He had me constantly seeing my doctor, questioning whether I was becoming more and more ill with my mental illness. But I wasn’t, because as soon as I stepped out the door into the world, I functioned just fine. He knew just how to press my buttons to make me think I was going crazy. He even tried to have me committed to a mental institution to take power of attorney over all of our money and our home. Didn’t work of course, because I’m not crazy, I function just fine, as I said, I work two jobs. Bypolar is not what I am, it is an illness that I have. In the last year in the home he completely turned my children against me, my whole family against me, and I am still struggling to get out of this home because of the destruction he has done to the home which has made it next to impossible for me to sell it. I am almost completely broke now, my children have lost all all faith in me as they doubt me and what I am saying is actually truth, he has put so many lies in their heads. Even through everything he has put me through I carry pictures of our wedding in my purse, pictures of us kissing at what I thought were happy times. I can not believe that these over 20 years of me helping him with his addiction, giving him 4 beautiful children, working so hard to get us a home because he wouldn’t work was all a lie. In the beginning we were happy. I still love him and wonder how this is possible. It is almost a sick and distorted way of feeling, and when I tell my friends they don’t want to hear it. Some don’t even want to associate with me any more because they think there is something wrong with me. Maybe there really is something wrong with me. How do you stay with someone who basically tortures you for over twenty years. How do you subject yours children to this kind of behavior knowing they may pick up on it and possibly become someone like this. How can you love a monster like this.

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  25. This all fits except that I finally snapped I reported the abuse but didn’t press charges. And I am now so distraught he hasn’t spoken to me for a month. I’m not sure what I am most worried about but he isn’t stocking me in fact he seems like he forgot I was his loyal loving partner for four years 😦 its difficult because I don’t want the toxic relationship but on the other hand he is making it seem so easy it’s almost as painful as being attacked.

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    • This sounds like me. When I leave I’m so miserable when he doesn’t contact me because I want to feel like I meant something…when clearly I didn’t. Its a terrible cycle.

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  26. I have been in an emotionally abusive marriage for over 20 years. I have always been told that I’m too emotional, too sensitive, naive, etc. This turns in to more harsh words such as bitch, lazy, fat and cunt when I fight back. I know in my head that you cannot argue rationally with an irrational person, but I still try sometimes. The trigger points are constantly pushed and as hard as I try not to respond, sometimes I simply cannot turn away.

    We have never had a joint bank account. In the beginning I was making twice as much so money was not an issue. Now I am making far less but must get approval before I can spend any money. We have a lot of money in the bank, so things should not be so tight. I own my own business, which is a cyclical one with regard to finances. When I am making money, he insists that I pay “my share” of the bills. Proportionally, it just doesn’t work! This ensures that I never get ahead in my business financially. In the slow times I must “beg” for money for the simplest of things, including food, gas, shampoo etc. I have to listen to a lecture every time I ask for money. Sometimes it becomes very personal and threats are always made. He told me recently that I should give up my “silly hobby” even though I have run a successful business for 4 years. I work very hard, which he resents. I don’t make enough money in his eyes, but on the other hand I work too hard and am not there for him at his beck and call. Clearly, I cannot make him happy.

    Recently, the behavior has become physically violent. He used to throw things and break things but has now physically hurt me for the first time. I am angry with myself constantly for staying in the relationship. I simply don’t understand why I don’t leave for good. Have left a couple of times, but always return. I know I am smart, capable and kind and yet I can’t take the next step. I have seen an attorney and have all of the paperwork ready to file….just can’t do it! My business is located on our property and I can’t get past leaving that in addition to my home that I love. We have children although one is in college. I have one more year left with my other child. Am I waiting for him to go to college?? The sickest thing is that I love my husband. I keep thinking that unconditional love means staying and working through any problem. What a crock….right? He really is a good man when he is on the upswing. He is hard working, goal oriented, disciplined, and very charming. I feel frozen, immobilized, hopeless. I have never felt this way before because I always thought there was a way through the mess. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore. I have read the literature on trauma bonding but although it gives a title to what I am doing, it is not helping me make the next step.

    My family and friends who love and support me are starting to turn away from me. I completely understand. I am becoming more and more reclusive, with the exception of my business. I don’t return calls and cancel plans. I think I am clinically depressed. Truly, I am tired of my own victim behavior, but can’t seem to move forward. Help.

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  27. I take offense at abuse articles that focus solely on male abusers. More than 830,000 men fall victim to domestic violence every year. “…in committing acts of domestic violence, more women than men (25 percent versus 11 percent) were responsible. In fact, in the 71 percent of nonreciprocal partner violence instances, the instigator was the woman. This flies in the face of the long-held belief that female aggression in a relationship is most often predicated on self-defense.” http://www.mintpressnews.com/woman-aggressor-unspoken-truth-domestic-violence/196746/

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    • I’m not interested in whether you’re offended. You come to a blog aiming to help *women* in abusive relationships and throw your toys out of the pram – you show no compassion for the suffering of the writer or others sharing their painful stories here. I write about male perpetrated DV because that’s what I experienced. I don’t write about female perpetrators because I have no experience to share there. I’m writing about what I *know*. Though the research is clear that women are overwhelmingly victims of DV and men overwhelmingly perpetrators, I acknowledge that women can be perpetrators too throughout this site, if you’d bothered to read. Everyone has the right to live free from violence, and plenty men as well as women say this blog has helped them. That’s all I’m interested in, frankly.

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  31. Great article, however I found it hard to read when you refer to the abuser as “he” through out the entire piece. My abuser was a “she” and is exactly what you describe here. I can imagine statistically there’s more men that abuse women, however there’s more and more men being abused by women today. Being someone that was abused by a woman I would kindly ask that women respect that me can be abused as well, and that this is a cross gender issue.

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  32. I’m a 40 year old divorced man with 2 kids under 10. I recently parted with a 32 year old woman. She was so beautiful. It was so nice to be with her the first 3 months. She was kind and playful. 4 months in her mother passed from cancer. She broke up and went away, 3 months later we began dating again. It was nice, I knew she was hurting. It was shortly after getting together again that she began getting into rages with me, screaming at me and hitting me. I thought it was because of her loss. I took the hits, pinching, biting, spitting, punching, kicking, scratching. Most all of these outbursts were while my kids were with their mother. She would tell me it was my fault, I couldnt see it. I thought it was connected to her grief. Like one of the other posters wrote I too wondered what she had been like before. She would tell me that I was the only one she acted this way with. It was my fault. I still doubt this, but maybe its true…..how can I know. She would scream at me in public, once in front of a little corner store, once in the front door at Fred Meyer, on bike rides in the woods, at my home where she cozily moved in. One day I was outside with my kids playing, she was gone. My neighbor asked if he could have a private moment with me. His daughter had been up for the weekend (they use the house for vacationing) she had reported back to him about the horrible screaming coming from my house. My ex would scream and scream and wail….and of course then cry and kiss and want to have sex. It went on like this off and on for almost 4 years. We would break up and within 2 weeks be seeing someone new. My heart felt crushed, like another poster said,”how can she move on so easily”. Its been 6 months now, I’m still in love with her, I have no idea why. That’s why I ended up here. Trying to understand why someone who I know treated me insanely bad still holds such a grip on me today….I like the idea of 27 % less pain after around 6 months and am trying to wait out. I never imagined anyone could keep raging and abusing, how can anyone feel okay doing that…..she said she couldn’t be like that anymore and left me. So then I feel crazy, like ya, maybe it is my fault . I made her be like that. And then I feel horrible knowing how happy she is now with her new BF. 40 years old and my emotions are like a teen and my mind is against me…..I feel horrible for anyone who feels like this, and am thankful for the space to vent, my friends call me an idiot and for her I have been.

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  33. Pingback: The Real Reason Why We Love Bad Boys, Toxic Partner and Emotionally Unavailable Men – Top Six Pack Fitness·

  34. To the writer:

    I’m sure you have seen, felt, heard it all before. I haven’t read all of the posts, but I’d like to share a short story.

    I was with my ex for almost 2 years. We lived together. It was the classic case of everything. Love-bombing at first… AMAZING gifts. Trips around the world. I’m sure most of my friends were jealous. But the day before we moved in together — I got my first shake up of violence (towards a physical object in my apartment, not to me). I’m guessing it’s because he knew he already had me and I had no place to go as my notice had long been handed in and we had paid for 2 months at the new place. Less than a month later, he was in full swing. The guy is charismatic, the smartest person I know, and oh-so-likable to the outside world. How hungry his ego must have been to make my heart his sustenance. Every pattern I have read in 100+ articles holds true about the cycle of abuse, and your post especially. I was essentially ‘punished’ for being who I was and thinking the way I did. At first the apologies for the outbursts coming down on me for who I was were grand and like something out of a novel. Over time, the apologies were still there, but less heart felt and more calculated. And over time the words just didn’t mean anything anymore. I loved to hear them, but I would like to think my intelligence slate wasn’t entirely wiped clean and I analyzed every word carefully when I had the mental wherewithal to do so.

    The last straw came for me came after what I considered to be so disrespectful and abusive the damage had been done. I told him it had too, and he set about giving me the most hurtful breakup speech I could imagine. I have survived a lot of gaslighting tactics and sure enough the next day I was made to believe that he had never broken up with me, but my behaviour causes him to act the way he does and say things he doesn’t mean. The whole conversation caused me to hyperventilate as my brain couldn’t keep up with the back and forth trying to make sense of everything. Then he wanted to be intimate and tell me I was his world and that he knew he needed to find better ways to deal with how I *cause* him to be angry. I don’t know exactly which moment it was or the combination of the entire weekend, but I knew I had to get out. I was on my best behaviour for the following two weeks, formulating my plans and exit strategy using only resources at my office so that they couldn’t be traced. It was the hardest two weeks I had. Imagine — feeling so low — then seeing the best sides of him in the weeks that followed, it made me question everything all over again. But I did it. I moved out while he was at work, completely unsuspecting. I have been no contact for 47 days. The first three weeks were spent harrassing me by social media, email, phone calls… then when he got nothing from me he moved on to every member of my family, even my best friend. Everyone told him it would be best to move on, get some help, and give me space. He was quiet for 3 weeks.

    More recently, he created a new email address and again reached out to me. He told me he had been seeing a counsellor twice a week, and that every day he realized another way he had hurt me. (Before I realized I was caught in the thick of an abusive relationship and thought I was the problem, I asked him to go to counselling with me. His response: “If you fixed everything that was wrong with you, we would have nothing left to talk about.”) So this was big for me, hearing that he had decided to go on his own. He stated that we could go to counselling as long as I want and use my family as a helpful resource (he had been guiding me to shut them out for quite some time beforehand) to build a mutually beneficial support system that would always be there. He also professed to have changed after 40 days. How can you go your entire life being molded into the person you are at the age of 35 and say you are changed after 40 days? And even if he has changed some things… I’m leaning towards the fact that he feels guilty for how his behaviour made ME feel, not that he is so ashamed and guilty of his own actions. Words mean little to me right now, and even if they did mean something, I have yet to hear the broken down acknowledgment of being so far sunk into feeling like scum for ABUSE that was caused towards me, an acknowledgment that it will take months if not years to change, and an understanding of the fact that it may take me even longer to overcome the pain and anguish of being broken down into a shell by his actions. The word abuse has never left his mouth.

    Am I thinking clearly here? Does anyone have any insight?

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  35. Pingback: Avoiding the (trauma) bonds that bind. | loveandotherthingsthatfly·

  36. I admit, I do have trauma bonding happening. Years ago, I woke up to the fact that my husband is a Narcissist. But my hold is finances. Part time work, bad credit, emotionally drained, and fear of custody arrangements. The harder I try to change that, it seems I hit more brick walls. I have 2 daughters and a son still living at home. If I go and leave them, then I leave them to suffer as I am. Every one says leave, leave, get out, get out. But know one says, I have a paid for 3 bedroom house and will let you rent it for what you can afford for as long as you need until to finish school and can get on your feet.

    Shelters and half-way houses are not as good as everyone thinks they are. They say, they have women’s Shelters. I say, have you ever been in one. It’s not what you think.

    Everyone says leave, but no one provides a way for us to leave. And he would still get custody and try to make me pay child support because I don’t have the means to provide for us. Some women stay because they don’t have the means to leave.

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