Ever fell in love like how it happens in a fairytale? The sky turns pink and the gardens blossom, the sun shines bright but in a split second, it all turns dark, gloomy, the thunder storm flashes and reality hits you real hard.
Real love is like a tree that takes years to grow its roots to the core of the land and stays for eternity. Often times we get stuck in life because all we seek is love, attention, and care. In order to satisfy our wants, we don’t really think about the means, instead, our focus is only to receive that affection from whom we desire. But we all know the fact, “Life is not as easy as it seems to be.”
Most couples develop the attachment bond in which one partner bombards the other with so much love and affection that they actually want someone to pinch them to get assurance that it’s not a dream. But, unfortunately in reality, they are slowly stepping towards a high cliff of affection, one push and they’re down. They are attracted to that person so much that everything around them goes out of focus because they are getting all the love and validation that they have wished for. Little did they know that this is the first step of a toxic relationship.
Usually, people confuse “Real Love” with “Trauma Bonding.” At first, it’s all glitters and gold and they enjoy being loved by their significant other but gradually, it becomes a struggle to live with that person. Getting bits and crumbs of love and attention from a person who enjoys depriving you of healthy love is hard to handle. You start noticing that you are losing interest in your hobbies and passions. You are losing focus and everything goes crazy for you. It is becoming hard for you to accept the fact that your relationship is becoming toxic and things are changing but still you feel helpless because you are addicted to those chunks of love they provide you followed by a cold behavior. Whenever you come across such situation, know it that it’s not real love but a trauma bond. There are 7 stages of trauma bond which are discussed below:
1. Love Bombing
Love and validation are all that you have wanted and craved for. For you it all seems like a fairytale because you get all the attention and love from your partner. The world blurs and you feel like it’s just the two of you and love all around. All your insecurities are taken care of and you feel so relaxed because you are blinded in love. They make you feel extraordinary and special in every way they can, but slowly you are falling for a malignant narcissist who will destroy your life eventually.
2. Trust and Dependency
With all the love and attention, the victim develops trust and dependency on their partner and fails to see the reality. Victims fall for Love Bombing because they fail to learn self-love, which slowly leads to destruction. All you crave for is someone who will provide you all the love and validation which makes you more vulnerable and attracted to the malignant narcissist. And this shifts from love bonding to a stage where they overflood you with love and validation only when you comply with them. If you do something for yourself, it pinches them and they act indifferent and don’t give you any emotional response because they want you all for themself. This way, you do more and more for them and less and less for yourself.
Criticism is the third stage, in which you feel like you have no value in their eyes. The ratio of positive events and gestures take a sharp turn to a 360 degrees angle and your world turns upside down. All those feelings caused by their love that were motivating you, building your self-esteem, boosting your confidence, shatter and you feel stuck. You feel confused because the person you love shows their real face which you had never seen before. Things start becoming hard for you because they criticize and devalue you for all the things that once made your partner happy. They always demand more and more from you and in return do nothing for you. You feel so dependent on them that even if they take a step back, you are willing to take a step forward just to please them.
In stage four, the arguments worsen and your partner plays blame game with you. By this time, you realize that something is not okay and try to talk it out with your partner but they use gaslighting to confuse you. They want you to take the blame and always tell you that it’s your fault.
5. Resigning to Control
As time passes, things keep becoming hard and difficult to handle. By this time, you feel confused because of gaslighting which causes self-doubt, and the thought that your partner has a bad intention for you, poisons you slowly. You feel helpless and the only option you see, is to give up and believe their false reality. You do more and more to please them by complying to their demands. Giving up on your dreams and passion doesn’t matter to you anymore because, you think that everything will go back to normal if you fulfill your partner’s demands and expectations.
6. Loss of Self
Facing all the challenges and dealing with the stress makes you feel terribly tired and exhausted. By this time, you feel completely lost and willing to give up on everything just to seek their love and validation. Every day feels like a struggle to you and no matter how much you want to fix things, and share your feelings with your partner, the fear of being pushed away again, stops you. All you wish for is a time machine that can take you back to revisit the golden moments of your life and pause for eternity. Looking up in the mirror, you see a helpless, confused, anxiety ridden and depressed soul with a broken self-esteem and shattered confidence, who seeks love.
Due to the constant hot and cold behaviors, you stop fighting back because all that makes things even worse so, you settle for anything. Now you have become addicted to those chunks of love your partner gives you intermittently, followed by the cycle of abuse. The chemical levels in your brain go crazy with the ratio of cortisol and dopamine being released. This cycle of abuse is damaging you psychologically, making you feel more stuck. At times you want to leave because the destruction is killing you inside out but the addiction leaves you with intense withdrawal symptoms, flashbacks, cravings for the toxic person and leaves you in an anxious state that makes you feel giving up more painful than staying.
8. Breaking Free
It is never too late to seek help in the form of psychotherapy from a professional if you are going through trauma bonding. It is important that you realize you are in deep trouble and a toxic relationship with a narcissist. Exploring the relationship through psychotherapy and acknowledging the abuse to control the addictive aspects is a hard work but it gives an opportunity to the codependent to affirm her positive choices to get away from a trauma bond.
Author: Arooba Laraib
Clinical & Counseling Psychologist
Family First Institute