You've escaped from a toxic relationship (finally), or maybe you’re in one right now and you're trying to break free but you just can’t seem to cut the cord.
Maybe you’re asking yourself "why have I stayed so long?" All the signs were there, "why didn’t I leave sooner?"
And now you have this hideous feeling of panic; you’re scared you’ve blown your last chance at happiness. And even though you know it was a terrible relationship you keep getting sucked back in or feeling like you just can’t let go. You feel stuck in this pitiful cycle of drama, pain and destruction and you've no idea why.
Or maybe it's not you, but someone close to you and you can't understand why, when nothing changes, they keep going back.
Toxic relationships are destructive AF. They wound us mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. If you’ve experienced one you’re not alone, and it’s never your fault.
It is however your responsibility to do something about it so that it NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN. Because toxic relationships have a bad habit of repeating. And they can get worse until we sit up and pay attention.
We have to be careful because we can become convinced that it's our fault and that we're somehow deserving of the bad treatment.
But that’s never true.
We all deserve to be loved and respected. Being treated badly is never about who we are, more it's a projection of the damage and pain inside the person we’re in a relationship with.
But it's also a marker for what we’ve agreed to tolerate according to our past experiences.
When you look back you’ll see that you missed the red flags. You continued to stay and endure the toxicity because deep down you have unresolved emotional wounds and subconscious patterns from childhood that keep you stuck.
In order to break the cycle you have to discover why you became so entangled in such a toxic relationship in the first place.
One reason we stay in toxic relationships is because of trauma bonds. We become addicted to the feelings of pain and trauma. Actually its the cycle of love/pain that we become addicted to.
Trauma bonds keep us sticking around long after we should’ve left.
They're casued by the dramatic roller coaster cycle of devastating emotional (and sometimes physical) pain, anguish and confusion; all mistaken as love.
We believe that we love the person, that we’re addicted to them and can’t live without them, but actually what we're addicted to is the cycle.
Trauma bonds flourish in relationships where there’s a lot of intensity, complexity, inconsistency and never actualized promises.
They're common with alcoholics, addicts, narcassists, serial cheaters and abusers. It's the inconsistency and intensity along with the repeating cycle of love/abuse, love/abuse, love/abuse that causes the bond to form.
We’re kept off balance as we try and get back to the good feelings.
When we're with someone who themselves is emotionally unbalanced and addicted to the cycle of pain and drama we get hooked.
The feeling of love is so intense in the beginning that we are always trying to get back to it. We want things to go back to how they were, how we know they can be.
But the good feeling is always short lived; we’re always chasing it.
Trauma bonds can keep us feeling powerless to move on; we just can’t seem to forget about the person. We day-dream about them, wondering what they’re doing, if they’re thinking about us and what would it be like if only things were different?
No matter how badly they’ve treated us, (and often the worse the treatment the more we’re bonded) we still find ourselves missing them.
Everything in us screams to let go but we just can’t move on. Trauma bonds are powerful and hard to break because they happen at a mental, emotional and physical level.
We become mentally blinded and consistently think about the person on a loop. We obsess, over analyse and become addicted to the mental thought processes that the relationship feeds.
We can’t seem to switch our thoughts off.
We also become emotionally addicted to the extreme feelings the relationship gives us. It's the initial stages of intensity that set the scene for these extreme feelings. We think we’ve found the one who fits; we can’t believe they’re so like us.
Sadly this is often a strategic mirroring process that hooks us into the fantasy that we’ve found our soul mate.
This is our high.
And then the low hits, and we quickly become enmeshed in the roller coaster of confusion, fear, anxiety and stress which is counter balanced by the intense love and connection.
We flit between hurt and happy and we’re always trying to get back to happy.
We also become physically attached. When we go through extreme stress our body releases various chemicals which it then becomes addicted to.
For example during the abusive part of the cycle and we’re under emotional stress, our bodies release adrenalin and cortisol hormones. And then, when we come back to the intense making up or feeling loved stage, our body releases dopamine.
The body familiarizes with and becomes addicted to the adrenalin/cortisol/dopamine pattern. Like all addicts we come to rely on it.
So now you’re mentally, emotionally and chemically dependent on the cycle and this is what’s keeping you stuck to the person you’re trying to break free from.
Acknowledgment is the first step. Now that you can see what’s really happening you can consider yourself well and truly on the path to freedom.
Failing to acknowledge what’s going on however will keep you attached. And this is key to breaking trauma bonds; we need to be brutally honest with ourselves. It's the fantasy of the relationship and what we wish it was, that keeps the trauma bond in place.
Over time we've convinced ourselves of all sorts of fantasies about the relationship that on closer inquiry aren’t actually real. We've also convinced ourselves that things aren’t as bad as they really are. When in truth, they’re worse.
So we need to get real.
And we need to be willing to STAY REAL There’s a process to breaking trauma bonds and part of that process is calling out all the bad behaviours of your ex/partner and seeing them for who they truly are, right now.
NOT who you think they are; NOT who they told you they are; NOT who you wish they could be.
There'll be a long list of fantasies you’ve created around the relationship and each one is keeping you tied to it. As you learn to let go truth works its magic and the bond weakens until all that’s left is the cold, hard reality that you’ve been in a toxic, destructive relationship with an emotionally damaged, unavailable and possibly narcissistic person who will never be able to love you.
NOT because of who you are, but because of who they are.
Recognising trauma bonds and understanding why and how you became so attached is crucial to healing and dissolving the power the relationship has over you. You'll be amazed at how happy, relieved and committed you are to walking away and never finding yourself in this same cycle again.
You truly deserve great love, and you must do everything that you can to be available and open to attracting it. Healing the part of you that was vulnerable to the trauma must be your focus now. Because you never want to repeat this kind of relationship again.
Dawn Lee is a Personal, Professional and Spiritual intelligence coach™ with a passion for melding psychology and spirituality. Dawn's expertise is leading others out of personal and relationship crisis and into clarity to find happiness, peace, love and connection inside out. Her mission is to help shine a light of awareness in the world and connect others back to their happiest, truest, more fearless selves. Discover how to work with 1:1 with Dawn.