Attachment: Trauma Bonding

by Nancy Schwartz, LMSW

Feeling stuck and bonded in a relationship that is unhealthy. Feeling the need to change that particular person to stop an addiction or to become non-abusive. Always having repetitive, damaging fight where nobody wins Bonding is a biological and emotional process that makes people more important to each other over time. Bonding grows with spending time together, living together, eating together, making love together, having children together, and being together during stress or difficulty.

Bonding is in part why it is harder to leave an abusive relationship the longer it continues. Bonding makes it hard to enforce boundaries, because it is much harder to keep away from people to whom we have bonded.

For example You feel stuck because the other person keeps doing destructive things, but you believe there is nothing you can do about it. You try to change the person into becoming less destructive by trying to get them to stop an addiction or become a non-abuser. You keep having repetitive, damaging fights with this person that nobody wins. You seem unable to detach from someone even though you can’t trust them or really don’t even like them.

Moreover, experiencing together extreme situations and extreme feelings tends to bond people in a special way.. Trauma bonding, is the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings, and sexual physiology to entangle another person. Strangely, growing up in an unsafe home makes later unsafe situations have more holding power. It is trauma in one’s history that makes for trauma bonding.

Trauma bonding is loyalty to a person who is destructive. While the idea of bonding tends to bring up connotations of something good and beneficial, trauma bonds are unhealthy.

At THE PLACE we understand how important it is having a healthy relationship and relating to others in a healthy way. Nancy Schwartz is The Place’s expert on attachment trauma and trauma bonding. Her high level of training and education in this area will provide you both with solutions, tools and new found freedom as you develop other ways to get your emotional needs met.