trauma bonding

No Contact is the First Step in Breaking the Trauma Bond

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You may be reading this article because you’ve been considering leaving your abusive partner.  You daydream about a life without them and for a moment, you feel a small shimmer of hope.

But that small shimmer fades quickly, doesn’t it, when you remember the reality of it all?

They’ve been abusing you for so long, you settle back into believing you will never win.

That’s exactly what the narcissist wants you to believe.

What if I told you that the narcissist is a coward?  They don’t have any real power, only that which you give them.  What they’ve done is systematically brainwash you, and thereby made you believe you have no control over your life.

But you do.

Lots of people, including myself, once believed we’d never be free from the twisted, dysfunctional Hell that is a relationship with a narcissist.  But we’re out now.  And though recovery is something that will take time, the first step in healing and getting your life back is to leave and go No Contact.  If you have kids with your abuser, it takes a little more discipline and determination, but a strict modified contact plan will illustrate to your Ex that they can no longer rule your life.

But what if they just need more time and patience?”, you ask yourself.  “Maybe if I just do such and such and completely give up my identity, they will change and we’ll live happily ever after in a forest.”  a.k.a. self-doubt, confusion, and wishful-thinking.

You’re not to blame, though.  Those are all thoughts of someone who’s entangled in a vile Trauma/Betrayal Bond.

Do you experience any of the following?

  • You remain loyal to your abuser, regardless of the pain they’ve caused you.
  • You keep forgiving your abuser over and over, though they’ve never come through on their promises and continue to lie.
  • You keep trying to do more and more to please your partner, but nothing you do is ever good enough or acknowledged.
  • You continue to ruminate over the hurtful things your partner did, even though they might be out of the picture now.
  • You find yourself trying to get back with your abuser, even though you know logically that you’ve been violated.
  • You create a fantasy that leads you to falsely believe things can go back to being good.  Not just for a day or two…or five minutes, but forever.

If any of these things sound like you, you’ve developed a Trauma Bond with the narcissist.  And guess what, it wasn’t accidental…your abuser implemented this from day one.  According to Michael Samsel, author of the blog Abuse and Relationships:

Bad times bond people as strongly as good times, perhaps more so.

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. In leaving a long relationship, it is not always useful to judge the correctness of the decision by how hard it is, because it will always be hard.

Moreover, experiencing together extreme situations and extreme feelings tends to bond people in a special way.. Trauma bonding, a term developed by Patrick Carnes, is the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings, and sexual physiology to entangle another person.

Strangely, growing up in an emotionally unsafe home makes later emotionally unsafe situations have more holding power. This has a biological basis beyond any cognitive learning. It is trauma in one’s history that makes for trauma bonding. Because trauma (and developmental trauma or early relational trauma is epidemic) cause numbing around many aspects of intimacy, traumatized people often respond positively to a dangerous person or situation because it feels natural to them.

The above reasons are precisely why people have such a hard time effectively fulfilling No Contact.

People also fall by the wayside by fantasizing that they will talk to their abuser “one last time” to gain closure.  Often, that one last time turns into more years of abuse.

Or, they believe that if they show their abuser how serious they are about leaving, he or she will change.  Your abuser will never change.  The only way off of this crazy-train is to make changes yourself.  

Grab your No Contact Questionnaire below and see how going No Contact could change your life!

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Leave a Comment:

Scott Brewster says September 25, 2018

Hi, very insightful. Unfortunately Im middle aged and the narcissists are my parent (and to a large degree myself, due the way it passes down) i dissagree with one thing. I do not believe the narcissist does any of this on purpose to anyone. It’s more like the turbulence that follows a big powerful boat. The narcissist (boat) hardly even knows you are there, they are heading too big important things and you just get chopped up in the wake.

Denise says October 26, 2017

Hi Kim. I have enjoyed your blogs for months now. I implemented no contact and it really helped a lot. My life began to have meaning again. Recently I started talking to his family and of course they continue to tell me about him and his new supply. Unfortunately, I have regressed and I am now back where I started. I feel that I am continuing the pain but just not through him but now its his family. The things they share with me are painful to say the least. I thought that they cared about me but now I am feeling different. I am praying now for the strength to let it all go. Just feel helpless.

    Kim Saeed says October 27, 2017

    Hi Denise,

    Thank you for your kind praise regarding my articles. I’m sorry you’ve suffered a setback by talking to his family. I know how difficult it is and that’s why I encourage people to let go of any relationship that involves those who know the narcissistic individual. This includes the narcissist’s family members, as well as people you met through them, and sometimes even shared friends.

    I hope you’ll be able to let it all go, as well. Wishing you strength and resilience. XoXo


SK says August 8, 2017

I left 4 weeks ago. Not only was my fiance the main ringleader for the crazy making, but his mother and 2 sons jumped in and was continuing with the abuse. I am starting DIOP therapy to help me break the trauma bond get me strong again. It is a sad day when you have a big, beautiful heart and want a family to love and get abuse for your efforts. For all of you wonderful loving people out there who are going through the same trial as I, I send you all love and prayer for strength and courage to not only be able to sleep without nightmares but to wake up every morning with peace and love for yourself and for your loved ones. God Bless you all.

When the Narcissist Does What They Said They Wouldn’t Do…Again - Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says June 28, 2017

[…] The Narcissist instills this in his or her targets through behaviors such as systematic brainwashing, inconsistent actions and words, blame-shifting, gas lighting, and more – which also results in Trauma Bonding. […]

Cricketts says August 11, 2016

I do believe in Trauma Bonding! I tried the being friends and it backfired in my face and soul and I am existing in even more Trauma. I want to say to any and all that if any of the symptoms of being involved with someone who fits the Cluster B personalities criteria, it is like being hogtied. What I mean by this is having anything to do with the individual can only make it worse. When someone is hogtied if they move one part of their body it puts another part in pain. I tried to save someone from their bad decisions and as a result I have lost my life, my career, my retirement, my sense of self, and my health.

Please Please study everything you can about this devastating very real mental illness. Enlighten yourself, ask for help. Know that you deserve this information and if someone tells you otherwise that is not love or respect.

No Contact is the First Step in Breaking the Trauma Bond | Emmagc75's Blog says December 14, 2015

[…] No Contact is the First Step in Breaking the Trauma Bond by Kim […]

    Kim Saeed says December 14, 2015

    Thank you for the re-blog 🙂

Mary Ann Gavin Morgan says December 2, 2015

I have a question. The man I dated for 8 months 3 yrs ago I truly believe now was a narcissist. Every single trait matches. EXCEPT he has never came back. After I said I wanted a break because of how he was treating me (this on the phone) he said okay we’ll take the weekend and I’ll call you or you call me & we’ll go from there. He didnt call for a week, so I FBd him & said I didn’t mean never call again.He said he thought we’d be closer by now & he “just wasn’t feeling it”. But up to then he called every day & came over 4-5 nights a week (no sex, he was impotent from diabetes & heart disease). I tried texting, calling and FBing off & on for a year (before I defriended him on FB) Never ever contacted me again. Does this mean he isn’t a narcissist since every where I’ve read, they always come back to hoover. Thanks!! Still not over it/him but think it’s because I’ve been to afraid to date since. I had just left a 21 yr marriage (not abusive at all) & this guy was an old bf from the 80s.

    Kim Saeed says December 2, 2015

    Hi Mary Ann…it’s kind of hard to say from reading the limited history, but not all Narcissists hoover. Cerebral narcissists rarely do, nor do those who don’t want to put forth further effort for damage control. With all of that said, you didn’t mention the last time the two of you had any type of communication. It’s not uncommon for them to come hoovering around a year or more after the breakup, but of course, you don’t want to wait around for that epic fail. Hope that helps! <3

      Anonymous says December 2, 2015

      Thanks SO much for answering Kim! I’ve been reading your posts for a few weeks now & they help. i know I don’t want to hear from him but like most here, I just wish I could find you he did miss me & cared at one time. Last actual physical seeing him: 4/3/ mean that night that when he called (made him call 3 times before I answered that night) was 4/4/13. That’s when I said lets take a break. The FB note that he “wasn’t feeling it” was 4/10/13. Makes me sick at myself that it’sbeen so long & I still obsess on how he is and if he ever thinks of me. After I FB defriended him, I saw he got off FB for a while. Then through a friends FB, I see (a year later) he was back on but I couldn’t bring him up, so he had & still has me blocked. I didn’t harass him.Maybe 3 texts, 2 FB’s before I defriended him & one voice mail. All not begging or being angry, saying lets be friends. NEVER one answer, then the block. I think that hurt more than anything. Feel likes he hates me due to that. Anyway, I also feel crummy even thinking about this tonight as the breaking news of the horrible shooting in San Berdanino is on the news out in my living room. So many have it so much worse! But thank you again for your answer, any advise and all your posts that are helping so many!! Love & peace to you & all on there 🙂

      Mary Ann Gavin Morgan says December 14, 2015

      Yes, that answers my question, thank you!! It will be 3 years this April that I asked for the break & he never would speak to me in any way after that. Last time I tried was 6 months ago (text message). I know I’m better off and try to remember how awful those last few months were, but as we all seem to do with these creatures, it’s so hard not to focus on the first couple months of idealizing 🙁 Love you blog, it’s lots of help!!! Mary Ann

Thomas says September 14, 2015

I struggle with everything now. My female (NPD) and fiance destroyed me inside and out. Financially as well. I have difficulty eating (my jaw was unhinged in a rage-attack). I lost one of my testicles due to UTI(s) she keep giving me, and blaming me for. She was sugar-daddying many men (behind my back; money for future independent of me goals), and was the reason for the attack when I found out about huge cash deposits of money put into her bank account. I was unaware of her disorder at the time; else I would not have confronted her; clashed; as often as I did about the ridiculous lies she told me. And I wondered why all the affection and sex disappeared from our relationship. She claimed I did not pay enough attention to her emotional and material needs. I often cannot focus. Work that took 4 hrs now takes 16. I cry in public. I have constant anxiety attacks. I was abused as a boy by my father, but put that behind me many years ago. But, now it feels so very near to me again. My self-esteem is gone.

I have alienated myself from the world. At times living alone now I begin to construct romantic apology scenarios in which we end up together again. I try to stop the thoughts and feelings when they come, but often my will or energy level is near zero. I finally ended it; 4 weeks ago. And have gone 4 days no contact. I hope it gets better soon.

Why Going to Therapy With the Narcissist is a Bad Idea | Emmagc75's Blog says July 11, 2015

[…] or physical assault. This often makes things much worse for them at home, and strengthens the trauma bond, thus making it harder to […]

PB says May 16, 2015

This information is very true and real to what I’m going through right now. It hurts like hell and I feel as though there will never be light at the end of the tunnel for me and keep going back for more. The most recent hurt is of him sending me pics of him with someone else because I made him mad and upset, hurt him so he was going to show me. He then later apologized for it stating she was just a friend and he did it to “piss” me off. He had posted the pics on FB and then after I demanded he remove them, he did. So, my destructive thinking, why would he do this if he didn’t truly love and care about me and if she was more than a friend? As I often do, make up excuses for his negative, toxic behavior towards me. Well, today I decided I have got to implement the no contact rule. I have blocked him from FB and blocked him on my phone. He accidentally dialed my number and I heard a conversation he was having with a female wherein he told her he would miss her! This is all while he has been professing his love for me and telling me how much he misses me and wants to come home! It killed me inside to actually hear what I’ve known all along……

Michele D. Plessner says May 11, 2015

I am free of my ex’s grip but my sons aren’t. Typical of a narcissist, he went after the kids after I left him. My sons have been suffering his abuse full time for 41 months. Has been hell for my sons and me. Child services enables his abuse and forces my sons suffer many services sith eir abuser controlling what happens. The need a wake up call and won’t listen to me.

Lou says March 15, 2015

Your blog empowers me! I have successfully cut ties with the Narc, once and for all after 4 tortorous years and parting gifts of a punched hole in my bedroom door and a kicked in panel on my car.

I went to Court all on my own, once and for all, no more bluffing and got an Intervention Order! Even an Iterim order that has been served. I’m proud of myself! No Contact, empowered, healing every day – thank you! 😀 – Lou

Jillianw says January 29, 2015

I’m planning on going no contact with by abusive ex. I have left him at least 30 times but he always manipulates me and I go back. I’m hoping this keeps me away from him.

Ingrid says January 12, 2015

Dated a man for 2 years and suspected he was baiting me to be his next victim of abuse. The over-the-top compliments, interspersed with subtle putdowns, and his temper, intimidation and disrespect of others was a tip-off. He recently grabbed me and screamed in my face over unfounded jealousy and possessiveness. I left, didn’t answer his texts or phone calls, but sent him an email dictating no contact for two months. After that time I might answer his call but may also choose not to. I reeled in my power, asserted it. It’s been 10 days and each day feels more sublime than the previous. In two months I figure he will find another victim. I did this so he wouldn’t get all psycho on me, although.

Julie says January 3, 2015

My abuser has been in prison for 4 1/2 yrs and the bond will not break. He went to prison because of violence towards myself and our son and I can’t let go. I even lost my children do to drug use back in may. Thank God I have them back. I don’t believe this will ever go away.

Why Going to Therapy with the Narcissist is a Bad Idea | Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says December 12, 2014

[…] or physical assault. This often makes things much worse for them at home, and strengthens the trauma bond, thus making it harder to […]

10 Lies We Mistake for Love – Part One | Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says March 12, 2014

[…] When it comes to a Narcissist, nothing is as it seems.  They jump from target to target without any misgivings.  If you are in love with one, it’s very difficult to comprehend how they can do this because we assume they feel the same emotions of love and commitment that we do.  But, they don’t.  It’s important to realize that if the person you’ve recently begun dating frequently compares you to their Ex, plays the victim, pushes for physical intimacy, and pops the question too soon, you are being targeted.  Or, if you’re reading this in hindsight, perhaps it will you the courage to go ahead and implement No Contact. […]

StrongerSoulSurvivor says January 10, 2014

Couldn’t agree more! It took me many attempts to leave my abuser. The only time I was successful in staying out was when I went No Contact. It felt like the hardest thing ever, but it was one of the best moves I could have made in making the break.

It gave me the space I needed – free from most of his usual manipulative tactics to suck me back in – to understand that the love I thought I felt was actually the pull of the trauma bond.

Lynda Lippin (@lyndalippin) says January 7, 2014

No contact is crucial! These people tend to be manipulative and contact is bad.

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