A non-binary trans man feeling sad about trauma bonds in relationships

The Gender Spectrum Collection

Trauma bonds in relationships happen when a powerful, emotional attachment develops between a survivor of prolonged abuse and the perpetrator of abuse. It can be hard to break trauma bonds in relationships due to the intensity of the attachment, but there are multiple ways to heal and move on.

Healing Trauma Bonds in Relationships

The best thing for you to do is to start by taking one step. Then, when you’re ready, add a second step and then add more steps, until you feel like you have moved on from your relationship. Multiple steps over time will help you heal.

Find your resources. This might mean that you find a therapist, talk to trusted friends and family, or attend a support group. If you have people to really talk to who will validate your feelings, you will start to feel more self confidence.

Learn to Identify Gaslighting

Validate yourself, too! Don’t blame yourself. Start to realize that your partner is denying that events happened the way you remember. This is called gaslighting, and is extremely common with trauma bonds in relationships. Your partner tries to convince you that nothing happened. They make light of it, and tell you it happened differently than you remember.

They try to change the story to make it seem like it’s your fault and you’re the one to blame. This makes you feel like you can’t trust yourself and your own perception of reality. Then, you start to loose your self confidence, doubting yourself.

Don’t fall for it! Learn to spot gaslighting and call it for what it is. Gaslighting behavior is very common, so keep an eye out for it and don’t be fooled. This is the first step in not allowing it to undermine your self esteem.

The Addictive, Destabilizing Effect of Intensity

Trauma bonds in relationships are very addictive. The intense ups and downs from elation to depression are very destabilizing. The intensity of emotion triggers brain chemicals that keep you in it.

Backing away from this type of relationship can make you feel like you won’t survive without your partner. Realize that you are fighting chemical responses in your brain in order to break an addiction.

Addiction is inconsistent positive reinforcement. You keep going back, hoping for something better to come. Offering an onslaught of affection, adoration, and apologies, along with assuring you that they will change, can instill a temporary sense of hope that things will get better. Until the next time, of course.

You might not feel very good for awhile. But if you can abstain from reacting to what your brain chemistry is telling you, you will get through this tough time and your brain will stabilize. You will come out the other end feeling stronger and realizing you don’t need this type of toxic relationship.

As you disengage from the situation, you will trust yourself more and feel more self confident.
This might mean becoming financially independent. Having our own money is so important.

Live Your Own Life

You might not be able to imagine what life would be like without a man/woman. Life without trauma bonds in relationships. We are programmed from a young age that being in a relationship is one of the main ingredients of success as a person.

Now it’s time to cultivate the other ingredients of a successful life. You can eventually find a balance. But now, you need to expand your horizons outward and do other things. Basically, focus on being fulfilled outside of relationship.

It is so important to find a passion in life! Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Start journaling and try some different things. See your friends and family, live your own life!
Practice yoga, take a class, exercise, prioritize yourself. Get to know yourself! Physical exercise is very important for your mood and peace of mind. Hike, bike ride, lift weights, play tennis, dance.

Become financially independent. Earn your own money and become your own independent person.

Live in Truth

Another key point is to live in the truth. You may need to work on facing the truth. You might be living in a fantasy of what your relationship really is. If you can realize that you are in love with a dream, an illusion, you will be one step closer to facing the reality of who your partner really is.

You will probably find yourself mourning the loss of your fantasy. Grieving means letting go of getting your needs met by this person. It’s a process of saying goodbye.

Maybe your partner has convinced you into believing that you cannot function without them, or that they will meet some deep, unmet need. Identify what, exactly, you are losing.

What, honestly, is being fulfilled by this relationship? What do you keep wishing for? Most likely, what you are getting is the same negative stuff you got in your childhood. You have just recreated something toxic from your past.

These topics are perfect for discussing in therapy.

Trust your Gut

The bottom line is that you probably already know that this isn’t right. If you don’t feel good about yourself in a relationship, it isn’t the right relationship. You want to feel loved and accepted for who you are. Your partner needs to encourage you, not undermine you.

Does your partner call you names, make you feel desperate, or disrespected? There needs to be mutual support between the two of you, which helps you be your best self. If, instead, there is ongoing or recurring conflict, humiliation or careless disregard for your feelings, you are dealing with a toxic relationship.

If there is competition that feels mean spirited and you can’t rely on your partner, it might be time to consider that this isn’t what you had hoped.

What Doesn’t Work

It is so easy to focus on what you miss, especially when you are feeling lonely and empty. Reminding yourself of the reasons your addictive relationship is bad for you will help you be strong and in reality.

For example, I justified their bad behavior, such as saying to myself, they are only yelling because they are tired. They are only mean because they had a bad day. I feel bad when I’m around this person.

I had to hide my true feelings around them. I tolerated abuse, offering my trust and goodwill even when they betrayed me. I blamed myself for their unwanted behavior. I changed my thinking in order to match their opinions. I distanced myself from good people who questioned my relationship. I stopped taking care of myself. I stopped pursuing things that I love.

Positive Affirmations to Heal Trauma Bonds in Relationships

Write positive affirmations to help get you through this. Don’t scare yourself with negative thoughts. Instead, encourage yourself with positive thoughts. Focus on how you want to change.

I will trust my intuition. I will no longer involve myself in impossible situations and no win conversations. I will believe in myself and my own power. I am a powerful person. I can manage my emotions so they do not control me. I will believe in myself. I attract only things for my highest good.

When I feel emotionally vulnerable, I will connect with safe people. If I feel bad around someone, I will remove myself. I cannot change another person, I can only change myself. I will honor and pay attention to my feelings.

I will call trusted friends and relatives who love and encourage me. I will pursue activities that are fulfilling. I will enjoy exercise and taking care of myself. Above all, I will love myself.


These thoughts and behaviors that need to be reprogrammed are very powerful. Trauma bonds in relationships don’t have to be as difficult to process. That’s why EMDR is so helpful. It helps you desensitize and reprocess unwanted thoughts and feelings that are unproductive and don’t promote your highest good.

Additionally, we can also try neurofeedback, which resets the brain, creating a healthy resting state and better equilibrium. Such a great treatment for trauma.

EMDR is an important tool for healing. If you feel like I can help, give me a call at 310-314-6933 or email me at mfoxmft@yahoo.com. I’m here to help when you’re ready.

The following are helpful additional resources for anyone impacted by a cycle of abuse:

US Dept. of Health and Human Services – Resources by State on Violence Against Women
National Domestic Violence Hotline