Bonds between people can be an amazing, wonderful thing. You think of the love bond between happily married people. The maternal bond between mother and child. The friend bond between BFFs. But did you know that bonds can be formed that are every bit as strong but are harmful and toxic?
It’s counterintuitive, but people can develop incredibly deep loyalties to those who are using them, abusing them, and exploiting them. Think of the prostitute who “loves” her pimp. The abused wife who won’t leave her husband. Victims who help or even marry their kidnappers.
The bonds that form between a victim and an abuser are called “trauma bonds” or “betrayal bonds.” Could you be in a trauma bond with your spouse? Here are 10 signs you might be. (Trauma bonds happen to both men and women, but for simplicity’s sake, these are written for women.)
1. You think being treated badly is normal. If you tell your friends and family how your husband speaks and behaves toward you, they are concerned for you. Yet you think nothing is wrong.
2. Fighting. You have repetitive fights about the same thing, over and over, and no one ever wins, there’s never any insight. If you do feel that you “got somewhere” with the fight, that’s all wiped out when you have the same fight about the same thing again — probably the next day.
3. You defend your abuser/user. You find yourself complaining to friends, family, or therapists about how your husband is treating you, but then instantly begin to defend him or blame yourself, i.e., “Well, if I didn’t nag him so much, he wouldn’t have hit me,” or “If I wasn’t so fat, he wouldn’t need to cheat.”
4. Loss of free will. Everything in your mind tells you to leave your spouse, but you find yourself unable to make any kind of change.
5. You’re in love with the fantasy, not the reality. You find yourself incredibly attached to the “storyline” of “how things should go” or “how they should be” despite the fact that the reality of the relationship bears little resemblance to it.
6. “Auuuughhh!!!” You often feel like Charlie Brown, who repeatedly kicks the football that Lucy holds, only to have her pull it out at the last minute. The idea that THIS TIME he won’t pull the football continues to have power despite his always pulling the football and you always landing on your back.
7. Conversion. You keep trying to “convert” your spouse into someone who treats you right, “convince” him to behave differently, or “prove” yourself to him. You think if only you can “prove” yourself, everything will be different. You try to get him to “understand” that what he does/says is hurtful to you. If only he would “understand”!
8. You don’t like him. You “love” your spouse, but you don’t like, respect, or even want to be around him.
9. The next generation. Although you can’t leave your spouse and even say you don’t want to, you’d be horrified if your daughter brought home a new boyfriend and declared he was “just like daddy.”
10. Obsession. If you do manage to break away from your spouse, you obsess and long to the point of nostalgia about the horrible relationship you got away from and that almost destroyed you.