Love or Trauma Bond?
If you would have asked me a year ago, if I had ever been in love, I would have confidently declared I have–five times. Some of which, still leave a tinge of shame upon my lips.
Although, over the years, I have often and silently asked myself: was it really love?
Some of these relationships took me on a few unfavorable rides through infidelity, addiction, and dependency. I’ve lost myself, more than once, traveling down a few of these roads, blinded by love.
One relationship had me crawling back dozens of times over many years. When he cheated on me, emotionally broke me, beat down my self-esteem, he was the only person that I wanted to comfort me. He knew what to do and say to make me feel better—and I ate it up.
Was it love that’s kept me holding on for so long to what clearly hasn’t been good for me? Or was I under the influence of trauma?
I’ve learned a few things about trauma bonds that helped me see my past relationships without those pesky blinders. Specifically, behaviors we adopt and things we believe.
1. We feel addicted. We can’t go without them for fear that it would kill us. We can’t stay away no matter how much damage it’s caused. We need more of them. We need them to take the pain away—even the pains that our relationship caused.
2. We’re dependent on them to function, to stand, to breathe. We lose our confidence in ourselves and only they can keep us up. They complete us.
3. When we really think about it, we don’t actually even like them. But something inside of us keeps us idolizing their existence in our life.
4. We may even try to change them. Maybe if things were different, it would feel better. Maybe if they stopped this or that, it wouldn’t hurt to be with them anymore. So we keep trying, holding on, and waiting for it.
5. We wouldn’t want our children, or someone we love, to become or be with the person we can’t live without. And that confuses us.
6. We leave and come back. Leave and come back. Three, five, seven times over. We think “this time” will be different. But “it” happens again and again. We believe words over actions.
7. And sometimes, something inside of us is telling us that this isn’t love. But we don’t really know the difference. We don’t even hardly notice that our false future with someone who never really existed only exists in our imagination. In our longing.
8. We believe the highs are worth the lows, even though they are few and far between. Even though the lows destroy you, piece by piece.
9. We sacrifice our own needs to make the other person happy, no matter how deep the expense is to ourselves.
10. We feel like we’ve bonded more over extremes, breakups, and hard times more than we have during happy times. They bring us closer and they give us a reason to keep trying to save the relationship. We’ve been through too much already, we can’t let all of that effort go to waste.
I trust that when we let go of our trauma bonds and start to see what we were trying to change, what we were really holding onto, what really attracted us and kept us holding on—taking us further from ourselves and keeping us stuck in the mud, spinning our tires—we get closer to what we really desire and deserve. We learn what love is not and, thus, step closer to what love is.