Trauma bonding – why you can’t stop loving the narcissist

Trauma bonding makes you psychologically addicted to your abuser. This explains why trying to stop contact feels like you are coming off a drug.

Survivors and perpetrators of domestic abuse will often form trauma bonds whereby they both become emotionally hooked into the relationship – this can make it extremely difficult for the survivor to unlock herself and escape from the abuse.

Trauma bonding happens when an abuser provides the survivor with intermittent rewards and punishments – a psychological conditioning develops, the survivor becomes snared into the relationship, ever hopeful of the next reward and a reprieve from the suffering.

Powerful emotional bonds develop that are extremely resistant to change. Trauma bonding involves cycles of abuse – following an abusive incident or series of incidents, perpetrators will often offer a kind gesture to try to recover the situation. A period of relative peace can follow before tensions start to re-build and the abuse inevitably starts again.

trauma bonding domestic abuse

Survivors will try their best not to anger their partner, to do everything expected of them, they will remember how loving their partner can be and was in the early days of the relationship, hoping for the return of that behaviour. They think they just need to work out what they’re doing wrong to bring back the loving part of their relationship. It won’t occur to them that the loving gestures were always manipulative and never genuine – their partner being incapable of real love.

Trauma bonding feels like you’ve broken me into pieces but you’re the only one who can fix me.

Trauma bonding has similarities with Stockholm Syndrome where people held captive develop feelings of trust and affection towards their captors. Both Trauma-Bonding and Stockholm Syndrome are survival strategies that develop to help survive an emotionally or physically dangerous situation.

Women will hold onto toxic and abusive relationships and become more vulnerable to trauma bonding for a variety of reasons.

Survivors who were raised in abusive households are more vulnerable to trauma bonding – an abusive relationship may seem more normal and acceptable to them. This is one reason why it’s so important for parents to model healthy relationships to their children.

Women raised with abuse will also be likely to have lower self-esteem with less expectation of being treated respectfully. Being in the abusive relationship will further damage self-esteem, sometimes to the point the woman will believe she deserves the abuse she is being subjected to – the abuse becomes her normal despite it making her deeply unhappy, she may stop aspiring to anything better as she doesn’t feel worthy of love. The longer the survivor remains with the narcissistic abuser, the more difficult it is to break the trauma bond.

Trauma, fear and abandonment actually increase feelings of attachment. The more you have been hurt by him, the more intensely attached you will be. Trauma bonds are hard to break but even harder to live with.

Women in trauma bonds will tend to blame themselves for their partners’ abusive behaviour. She will agree with him when he tells her she wouldn’t cope without him, that she’s not really good enough, that she made him angry and that he wouldn’t need to punish her if she tried harder. She will also make excuses for his abuse: “He had a difficult childhood; his mother didn’t love him so it’s understandable he gets angry”. She’ll think that if she can stop being stupid, try harder, show more affection and never doubt him, things will be fine.

If she does manage to break free from the trauma bond, the abuser will commonly revert to the courtship phase to win her back and she will be very vulnerable to his efforts. The more she reaches out to the abuser for love, recognition, and approval, the more the trauma bond is strengthened. This also means she will stay in the relationship when the abuse escalates, perpetuating the destructive cycle. Because he is the one abusing her and making her feel terrible, she will often see him as the only person able to validate her and make her feel okay again.

 Although the survivor might disclose the abuse, the trauma bond means she may also seek to receive comfort from the very person who abused her.

trauma bond, domestic abuse

Escaping from a trauma bond is notoriously difficult, professional help is often needed.

To recover from a trauma bond Please click here.

Buy Sandra’s Books & Support BWP

Sandra hopes to reach thousands more women by sharing her wisdom in a her books One in Four Women and Beyond the Break-up, both of which are available on Amazon.

In these self-published books, Sandra shares her incredible knowledge of the vital steps to recovery for women who have been abused. Starting with their gaining a solid understanding of the complexity of abuse they’ve faced, and the perpetrator’s behaviour and moving onto understanding the issues facing survivors once the relationship ends.



Sandra very kindly donates the proceeds from the sale of these fantastic books to BWP, which we are really grateful for. Thank you Sandra!

If you have found this blog useful, and would like to support BWP in our work supporting survivors of Domestic Abuse, you can donate to us today.  You can also comment or share this blog on social pages – tagging us in. or Facebook.

You may also want to read these further blogs from Sandra.

Contact us

If any of this sounds familiar to you, you live in Broxtowe, Nottingham, and you think you would benefit from our help, please give us a call on 01773 719111 or email 

  • What’s new?


    Wear Your PJ’s For BWP!

    Raising funds to help support the critical work we do at BWP has never been more important. Following on from the resounding success of the Gala dinner in February we are launching our wear your PJ’s for BWP day. This fundraising event coincides with National Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day! We are asking individuals, … Continue reading Wear Your PJ’s For BWP!