trauma bonding

Signs You Might Be a Trauma-Bonded Co-Dependent (and what to do about it)

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One of the most difficult challenges in working with victims of Narcissistic abuse is helping them see that they are not responsible for their abuser’s actions, behaviors, cruelty, or consequences that arise out of said partner’s bad choices.  

With rare exception, those who reach out for help in escaping their abusive partners feel responsible for every bad thing that ever transpired in their toxic relationship.  They doubt themselves, they continually wonder if there’s something they could have done differently, and they come to me with unbearable feelings of guilt, humiliation, and shame.  This is all due to the Narcissist projecting their shame onto them, as well as having been the target of abusive, exploitative conditioning.

When something goes wrong in the Narcissist’s life, or he or she becomes angry, the victim is made to believe it’s their fault.  (i.e., “You should have told me my car was low on gas!  I was late to work again and put on probation!  It’s all your fault!).  Or, victims feel not good enough, smart enough, or attractive enough due to cruel statements made by their abusive partner.  (“I never loved you.  You were just here to pass the time”; “You were never good enough for me.  I just kept you around as a maid”; “Everyone is always saying they cannot believe I’m with someone like you”).  Over time, the victim internalizes these statements and believes there’s something wrong with them.

Even worse, they begin to resign themselves to a life of accepting the abuse based on these false beliefs.

A person who has healthy boundaries wouldn’t stay in such a relationship very long.  On the other hand, a person who scores high in codependent traits would not only stay in the relationship, but do everything in their power to avoid displeasing the Narcissist.  Many victims will allow their careers go to waste, cut off friends and family, stop practicing their favorite activities/hobbies, and live as an extension of the Narcissist.

Often, victims will defend their partner’s cruelty with statements such as, “He had a difficult childhood”, “She’s had a hard life because she was abused by her Ex”, “He or she really seems to want to change”, “Only losers give up”, “If God brings you to it, He’ll get you through it”.  These beliefs (in context of the abusive relationship) all enable the abuser to continue their abuse and only lead to negative consequences for the victim.

They’re also signs of trauma-bonding and self-defeating beliefs of people with enabling personality traits.  Those aren’t labels to be interpreted in a negative way.  They are both defense mechanisms that result from being emotionally abused and most often stem from not feeling loved during one’s formative years, usually from birth up to age seven.  Typically, this is because one parent was codependent themselves, and the other had exploitative traits. 

Since abusers always maintain the upper hand, codependents learn early on that they can only receive “love” and “acceptance” through what they can provide for the abusive parent.  Further, the codependent parent spent all their energy trying to avoid the abuser’s rage and displeasure, so there was little left to give to any children involved.  So, not only did the child(ren) not receive the nurturing they so needed, they learned how to avoid the wrath of the manipulative parent.  (This is a general scenario, not comprehensive).

Codependents can go through life without ever realizing they are, in fact, codependent.  This usually comes out as “being too nice”, being overly forgiving, always turning the other cheek, or doing more for other people than for oneself.  It’s only after pairing with an emotional abuser, such as a Narcissist, that codependent traits are brought to the surface in full force.

Am I a trauma-bonded codependent?

If the following examples apply to you, you have been the target of emotional/Narcissistic abuse, trauma-bonding (think Stockholm syndrome), having your childhood wounds exploited, and acting from cognitive dissonance, which means your partner has a Love-Avoidant or Narcissistic personality type.

  • You feel you can’t leave your partner, even though the relationship or marriage is extremely toxic for you
  • You feel powerless over your future
  • You have sleeping difficulties (too much or too little) and eating problems (not having an appetite, which leads to weight loss, or emotional eating, leading to weight gain)
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Easily startled or over-reactive to everyday situations
  • You check your cell phone every two or three minutes (for messages from your partner)
  • You rarely go outside the home because there’s usually a price to pay, or if you do go out, there’s always a deep sense of urgency to get back home as quickly as possible
  • You’ve stopped going out due to the above, and/or because you’ve lost interest in life
  • No matter the contributions and sacrifices you’ve made for the relationship, you feel you haven’t done enough
  • You’ve developed OCD tendencies since you’ve been with your partner, or you might exhibit behaviors that mimic bipolar disorder (which are really symptoms that developed due to emotional trauma)
  • You experience panic attacks, fear leaving your home, have nightmares, experience extremely high emotions, frequently relive past abuse (all symptoms of PTSD and/or C-PTSD , which are psychological injuries)
  • You hide your partner’s cruelty and abuse and/or lie to friends and family about your reality
  • You tend to accept accountability for the bad things that happen in your partner’s life and feel the need to fix their problems…always
  • You doubt yourself and/or your sanity. Believe you might be “the crazy one”
  • Feel a relentless need to give your abusive partner the benefit of the doubt – always to your detriment
  • You don’t want to say “No” or stand up for yourself because you don’t want them to think you’re mean or unwilling to make compromises (although they are repeatedly mean to you and unwilling to be flexible)

These signs are by no means comprehensive.  They are merely the most common concerns I hear from clients, as well as victims who’ve left comments across the forums.  If the above list sounds like your life, your partner is a manipulative, emotional abuser and has little chance of changing.

The good news is you can.  You can overcome your feelings of low self-esteem, hopelessness, powerlessness, and all those icky, self-defeating beliefs that were implanted in your psyche by the people who exploited you over the years, even as far back as childhood.

But, it all starts with going No Contact (or Modified Contact, only in cases of shared custody).

**If you do share custody with a disordered partner, it may benefit you to inquire about changing your custody arrangement, especially if your partner is absent. 

Going No Contact is hard, and things will get worse before they get better.  But, the payoff is worth it…a life without abuse; a life that you can enjoy; a life where you can find a truly loving partner.

“Make peace with your past so it won’t destroy your present.”  ~ Paulo Coelho

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Michelle Martin says November 13, 2018

OMG. This, is, me. Every, symptom. The, only reason that I am, free… is, because he, died. But, I got my share of, abuse.. 34, years. The, problem is,,, I, am still struggling with all those, symptoms. There, was no, closure. I, hope that I can be normal, some day

Sarah Willmington says October 12, 2018

True experiences

Amanda Ann says June 16, 2018

This article explains a lot. Thank you… Every example that was given, I can relate to 100%

Marie says February 28, 2018

Thanks for the reply! I have never expected support, so kindly from anyone. My children are all married and out of the house. Ages 41, 40 and 38.

Mari says February 27, 2018

I have been in such a relationship for 40 years! (married with 3 children)I fell apart (mayo depression as well as PTSD) but after 18 months treatment from both psychiatrist and phycologist and a very supportive new partner, I am starting to lead a normal life, working again (after 5 years) and is very happy.
I do still feel that I am sorry spending so much time supporting and fixing all the problems created that I should have spent on my children. I did do a lot for them, but in the emotional support to them I came short. I feel that I was giving so much to my husband that I was drained on a daily basis. My one daughter is if full understanding, but the other daughter does not want to understand that her Dad had a problem, which makes the relationship strained to a certain extend. Above this all he was also a chronic alcoholic which brought may other problems over and above the normal experienced from a mental disease.I protected my children in such a way that they only became aware of the problems after his death and I only really understood what were the diagnoses after his death

    Kim Saeed says February 27, 2018

    Hi Mari,

    I can relate to what you’re going through. It’s tricky terrain because while we were being abused and traumatized, our children were missing out on a normal childhood and typically forming abandonment wounds and their own trauma from any abuse they may have witnessed. So, they usually need the same healing that we need, if not more, due to what they went through.

    You didn’t mention how old your children are. If they still live with you, try to get them into therapy with a good trauma therapist. Be patient and understanding with them. They need to heal before they can really plan and look forward to their futures.

    ~ Kim

Jeanne says February 21, 2018

This article is great at indentifying if someone is codependent with a Narc. But the article just ends with saying the victim needs to go No Contact. How can one do that if they are experiencing some of the trauma bonding examples that were listed? If a person recognizes they are this victim, how can/do they take the next step? I’m struggling with this? Any advice?

Celebrating Stillness – Heal and Thrive says February 16, 2018

[…] You may come to find that your entire world view and core beliefs have changed as a result of trauma bonding while you were in the toxic […]

Lori Ellis says February 7, 2018

OMG!!! I shed a tear reading this! I feel after four years of breaking free from my narcissist… I’m almost at the tail end of understanding what it was I went through and although I may never be completely healed… Having an understanding of what help and help so much. This feels like the final piece I’ve been looking for. Not only did you cover what happened during my marriage… You answered questions about my childhood that never made sense to me all in one article! I have always thought my mother was codependent… And I’ve always questioned that I might be because of it… You gave me exactly the answers I was looking for and made it easy to understand.!!! I don’t know who you are… But thank you for this article you have written! You are truly my gift from God!!!
God bless you
Lori Ellis

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ThePinch says October 28, 2016

Thank you for this.

I am now half a year n/c. I have totally renovated my house and increased the value dramatically. I have written my first short book and am now active on a full length novel. I’ve dropped about 6% body fat and fitter than ever; lowest weight in 5 years.

I come from a highly abusive background (both parents) I consider myself fortunate to be alive. Just like your article says, I have been misdiagnosed as bipolar: I have complex PTSD. I also am getting new improved OCD tendencies. I will not leave my house until I look perfect. That’s because he is my neighbour, and he is a psychopath (my psychiatrist’s words).

The problem – for now – is that I am still REACTING to him.

Of course there is the hoovering. But then there are also heartbreaking plays for sympathy: living in squalor, getting sick, and deteriorating so quickly that even neighbours are asking me to speak with him. Death is a real possibility. When he doesn’t get his way, he glares to the point of even making visitors creeped out

I react. I’m the entertainment. I WANT him to see my new home, new butt, and new attitude. I don’t ever want to let my guard down and let him see m hurt or vulnerable again. At the same time, I’m addicted to the intensity, the sexual tension; the attention. It’s literally like a drug. That is MY stuff to deal with.

Writing this made it easier to see how much work is in front of me in order to recover. But also, having admitted it, to go easy on myself. Thank you for being here, and for listening

Rachael Anderson says September 15, 2016

Thank you for your valuable information Kim. I’m so very lost. I left my abuser in 2014 with my 2 children only to rebuild my life and I now find myself in another toxic relationship with a master manipulator. I want to run but I feel so stuck and for some reason I can’t pack up and leave which infuriates me. I am so angry I cry all the time and I don’t understand why.

I still don’t understand how this happened. He has taken over everything and I just want to run. He knows I don’t love him I know he can feel it but I don’t think he cares. Why can’t I leave? I don’t understand it myself. I would do anything to be on my own with my kids and I have the means yet here I sit. With him sleeping next to me.

He bends and twists and lies about everything. He uses me and owes me so much money I stopped counting. What do I do? I’m so embarrassed.

    Kim Saeed says September 17, 2016

    Hi Rachael,

    You may have formed a trauma bond with him, but the biggest obstacle (it seems) is that you believe you can’t leave. Once you change that belief into “It’s Possible”, then you can start taking steps to leave. You may be afraid of his reaction, too, and I can remember that fear very well. I do offer coaching if you’d like some personalized guidance. I help people in situations like yours every day.

    Warmly, Kim

MB says August 20, 2016

So much of this describes my mother. It used to describe me, before I woke up and started making better choices in life. But my mother has been married to a narcissist for years.

My stepfather is a very sick man who thrives on controlling others. My mother is a co-dependent enabler who doesn’t challenge his behavior, preferring to let him have his way and make all the decisions, no matter how harmful or crazy.

I grew up in a very toxic environment. I was constantly fearful of my stepfather’s violent rages. As a result, I tried to find love in boyfriends who used and abused me…one in particular.
I knew that he was no good for me, but I was (like the title of this post) a “trauma-bonded co-dependent”. I think what kept me coming back for more abuse was the low self-esteem and abandonment issues I had from growing up in a family where I felt unsafe and unloved.

When I was finally able to let go of my abusive ex, there was this overwhelming sense of relief. I’m still deeply scarred by the things he did and said to me, but I’m FREE of his abuse.
Karma hit him and the other toxic people he surrounded himself with in a bad way. I didn’t wish death or illness on him, it just happened.
The pain that he caused me came to visit him. This is why I’ve always tried to be kind to others, because when you treat people like crap, it will eventually come back to you.

Back to my mom…she used to make excuses for my stepfather’s actions all the time by blaming his childhood. She can never admit that she ALLOWED him to hurt me.
She can never admit that we lived in an atmosphere of terror for more than a decade. She can never admit that she stayed with him because she wanted a comfortable lifestyle, which included a husband (no matter how he behaved). She also didn’t want her second marriage to fail.
It was just easier for her to blame me, his parents, and the Pope for her husband’s sociopathic behavior.

I’ve learned to accept that this is (unfortunately) the path my mom has chosen for herself. I will never understand it but I’ve had to accept it.
Me, on the other hand? I am thankful to no longer be in abusive relationships or have contact with people who aim to tear me down. I’ve had enough of dysfunctional situations and I want to be a more healthy, confident, empowered person.

Cierra says July 28, 2015

Wow Kim. Thank you so much. This post brought so much relief to me, tears to my eyes and hope for my future. I always knew that abuse was universal but at the same time thinking “only I had a partner who did/said x, y, z” & made me feel “x, y, z”. So much reassurance. Though it has only been a short period of time of seperation, I plan to keep plugging away at it. 6 years total and 3 years of abuse had to end. Thank you so much!

    Kim Saeed says August 4, 2015

    Thank you for your kind praise, Cierra. I’m so glad to know you’re healing and moving forward <3

Terrie says June 1, 2015

I had to leave my mother at 16. She fits the descriptions here and I believe she is a sociopath. I wanted to leave when I was 4. The way I left was to marry a narcissist who groomed me and did not start the abuse until after the wedding and he moved me to another state where I had no other support. After 14 years of marriage I finally found courage to leave him. Ultimately, I left a relationship with my brother who is an alcoholic/drug addict, and my dad as well, who would not stop being abusive. I now have a wonderful relationship with a recovering person who will be celebrating 30 years of sobriety this summer. I worked hard on recovery myself. My life is so much better without them. I have complex PTSD. I have been in recovery since 1980. One of the most effective books to help me understand my life has been “Shame the Power of Caring” by Gershen Kaufman. I went back to the first husband for about a year and had a harder time leaving the second time. NO CONTACT with a person like this is the best advice. Thanks for the blog Kim. Your descriptions nail it!

Lisa Lods says March 22, 2015

I lived with a passive aggressive narcissist who moved away to work 2000 miles away 11 years ago which was 8 months into our marriage. He only came home about 25 days a year and of course I always rolled out the red carpet when he came home until about 4 years ago. It got old. I realized three years ago something was wrong when I was out in Cali to visit him and he said “tell me about your dreams”. I told him I wanted to sell our house when my youngest graduated which is 3 years from now and he come home. When we got back to his place he screamed for 9 hours literally. Said I was ruining his life. He had kept me on this what I call gerble wheel race. Remodeled a house moved built a house….the list goes on and on all while working and raising kids but “he was the one sacrificing. Finally I got help through therapy and this past October we were to divorce and since he had been gone so long we were going to live in separate houses and start over. The day of the divorce I get a text “you will always have a special place in my heart”. Then no communication then after several months he makes a way to call my sister and does other things to let me know hes involved. I finally cut him completely off last week. it has been hard but I know I am on my way to recovery. Thanks for this article!

    Kim Saeed says April 18, 2015

    And thank YOU for stopping by! Kudos for going No Contact. Wishing you all the best in your recovery!

      miriam says June 7, 2015

      I am 84 but I struggle everyday (with the help of a therapist) to deal with a frozen childhood. Is healing an ongoing energy no matter how desperate I feel? b

        Kim Saeed says July 1, 2015

        Miriam, I have found that even through all the healing work I’ve done, I still get triggered sometimes (childhood wounds, mostly) and healing is really a life-long journey. I can say, however, that even though I still experience the triggers, I’m in a better place than I’ve ever been.

beth says March 1, 2015

Im 6 days into the break up. Im a mess… a mess. but I’m holding on to as much knowledge as i can. I left the abuse in june, but i revisited in November so the last 4 months i only relived the nightmare which sadly solidified for me that he is sick and ay won’t change, thank god i did the research .. i feel awful i waisted 3 years of my life but i read about women who lost 20-30 and i feel grateful. Im absolutely in the self doubt, can’t live without , just what if stage. but I have blocked all emails, and calls, he’s attacks don’t happen unless i provoke…so i just need to NOT CONTACT HES already with the new victim so I have to just keep reading… and breathing, this is so unreal…..i mean absolute inhumane treatment. its really really hard to believe. I worry for my daughter as we are both total HSP and Empath types, Ive never experienced anything like this…. it truly was like an after school special, just a jab here and an isult there… next thing i know I’m cutting myself and he’s screaming don’t effen bother me with your needy bs……
thank you god… for today and for my strength and for 6 days of no more meanness. i will win i will be ok…i proclaim that i am stronger then this. i need time and i will heal…. pray for me…..pray he doesn’t come around……

Andre says February 7, 2015

Hello Kim and everybody,
Loving my ex gf who has NPD, actually knowing that she has NPD is the saddest thing I have encountered in this life. Alice Miller wrote about narcissism better than anyone. My narcissist ex girlfriend was and still is very lovable and adorable. Narcissism is the brain’s/soul’s ultimate self defense mechanism. It’s a life or death situation for a narcissist and real recovery is fraught with the possibility of suicide by the person afflicted with NPD. Thats why so narcissists attempt it One indication of how inter connected we are a humans is how much the rest of the world bends to the narcissists unreasonable demands because we sense it’s as matter of life or death to them and their world view. Narcissists really believe most of the crazy stuff they afflict on us. No contact is best. My narcissist was very adorable and lovable, but not because of the superficial things she desperately strive to be. They are lovable more so because they are disconnected from how lovable and adorable they actually are. Love them from a distance should be the mantra. And of course, as Kim is try8nv to help us with: love yourself.

Heidi Anne says January 12, 2015

I newly discarded by the narcissist ! It was avsolutrly malicious , painful beyond explanation , degrading . I am in shock ! I do find reading the comments and the information my only sanity , comfort at the moment . I hope to shine and find peace finally. , my whole life has been with people like this . I find hope in the comments and look to share and talk with others .

    Kim Saeed says January 12, 2015

    Thank you for stopping by, Heidi Anne (what a beautiful name!)

    I hope you will find encouragement and support on my site. There are lots of people just like you who come here to share their experiences.

    You can also find some suggestions for healing, including meditations and even healing recipes. Healing from this type of abuse does require a holistic approach, which includes the mind, body, and spirit <3

Healing Future says January 11, 2015

Dear Kim,
I need some serious help and insight on something briefly touched on in the above article. I think it is worthy of it’s own article. It’s meantioned that a codependant can begin to show bipolar tendencies…and I wondering what you mean and why that is. I struggle between being the passive, submissive, codependant willing to walk on egg shells and a different one full of anger, power, confidence and a willingness to tell the abuser he is awful, hurtful and poisonous. This attitude rarely surfaces except under extreme pain where I can’t take the hurt any longer and is usually during the discard at its climax. I get told by my abuser that I need help bc I seem bipolar. What is going on? What is this phenomenon? When he points it out I wonder if I am crazy and am two people….the submissive one he claims he loves and the strong self-advocator he calls a bi$&@ who he despises. Help!

Burned says January 6, 2015

I’m one week NC and it’s so hard! We dated for only 8 mos but seems much longer. We fought the last two months because of my questioning and suspicions. Was made to feel insecure, having ghosts, etc… I believed him since I never had solid proof. Last week we spent the day with his friends in a bar and I paid attention to his pass code on his cell phone. He passed out on his couch at home that night and a text came through with just initials asking if he was ok. I unlocked phone and read the messages, from a woman he’d met months ago online (one of our fights was about me thinking he was still active on the dating site we met on). I texted her from his phone and we ended up talking while he slept on the couch. I’m still in shock. He asked me never to contact him again but faught for her. She lives 4 hours away and I was the one he had close to home that met the kids and family. I know what he is and that he’s as toxic as they come. At the beginning I never had time to think, I fell hard before I knew who/what I was dealing with. I’m praying every minute for strength to get through this awful feeling. Thanks Kim for this site, it helped me figure out who he was and it will help me get through NC and hopefully move on. I know there is something better out there and not all men are monsters. Thank you!!!

Susan says January 5, 2015

100% true! Like you are describing all about my case!
The problem that presists after even the no contact is that:
After being abused for hell of years in all aspects (emotionally, physically, financially ..etc.), and even I suceessed over myself & got my freedom by divorce, but i became like I am his prisoner still..!
When i opened my door to get knowing new people for the sake of meeting the man who deserves me, but, I was comparing the man i met (for the first time after my divorce with 15 month) with my Ex, I even was imaginning doing sex with this new one., by end, i totally rejected to go on with him any further step & felt like i am cheating on my Ex? I could not imagine that another man than my Ex can touch my body, i felt I don’t wanna be in bed with any other man than my Ex though of the horrible abuse & damage he caused to me..
Is there anyway to kill this negative feelings & rejection to start over again with a new partner?

tigerlilly34 says November 5, 2014

I had my ex husband forcibly removed by the police since march, have been no contact since july but I feel so stuck, I am afraid to leave the house, have extreme social anxiety still. If I am unfortunate and see him somewhere ( I live in a small country town) I feel a mix between terror, and anger, it just feels like he stole my identity and I don’t know who I am anymore I feel frozen will this pass ?

    Kim Saeed says November 5, 2014

    Hi Tigerlilly34. I’m sorry to know you are having such a hard time. Are you seeing a therapist, and are you participating in any healing activities?

myplace2spu says November 1, 2014

Reblogged this on myplace2spu and commented:
For my fellow codependents. May we all find our strength. Thank you again Kim Saeed!

    Kim Saeed says November 19, 2014

    Thank you so much for reading and for sharing <3

Charity Kountz (@CharityKountz) says October 28, 2014

This describes my relationship with my ex- husband so accurately I am stunned. With this much psychological complexity, it’s no wonder I couldn’t see it. I had a very good friend help me for over a year to break free from the abuse. The more I study and reflect, the more I learn about myself, my motivations, and avoiding repeating the cycle. Thank you for posting this incredible article – it has given me a feeling of peace to know that I can let my self-blame go. I am subscribing!

Signs You Might Be a Trauma-Bonded Co-Dependent (and what to do about it) | Scarlett Pearl Snow says October 10, 2014

[…] Signs You Might Be a Trauma-Bonded Co-Dependent (and what to do about it). […]

elldee626 says October 9, 2014

I was married for 18 years to a man who has borderline personality disorder, but my reaction to that mirrors what is written in this article. It has been 16 years since he left, and it’s taken me almost that long to stop seeing myself through his eyes; in other words, not to think of myself as dumb, lazy, undesirable, and worthless. Recently our adult son had to deal with his dad’s irrational, hurtful, hateful, unexplainable behavior. In a nutshell, my ex was jealous of a friendship my son had with a mutual friend/business associate of theirs, so he dissolved the partnership they had. Observing my son (and the extended family as it rippled outward) go through this dredged up memories and feelings of my married life. I had to catch myself from making this about me and refrain from making comments about my experiences. The positive thing, for me, was that it vindicated me by finally making me see that I was not the crazy one like I’d been led to believe, that I wasn’t imagining or exaggerating his mental and emotional abuse, and that I’ve changed but he hasn’t. I have been able to grow and heal and change over the past 16 years to the point I am not the same person I was back then. He still is.

Wait…Did I Write That? | dear john narron says October 2, 2014

[…] Signs You Might Be a Trauma-Bonded Co-Dependent (and what to do about it) […]

WritesinPJ's says October 2, 2014

Reblogged this on my life in pajamas and commented:
Trauma bonding creates an ongoing mishmash between my mind and my emotions. Trauma bonding is worse than super glue. I know it’s present in my life, but it can feel almost impossible to sort out which is what in my feelings because of its convoluted dynamics.

Excellent post from a great blogger, and I hope you find it as worthwhile as I did!

chely5150 says October 2, 2014

You stay because despite the list above there are good times and loving moments, it’s not like the nightmare is everyday 24/7. To the outside world it looks like you have a good life and in many ways you do.( Not an excuse for his behavior just that there are always several different perceptions that can be here.) Most people will question why I would leave a good marriage (20years). Especially because to leave this you need a support team to help you make it through, sometimes that is not there.

I wasn’t co-dependant (only a little) in the beginning. I knew it had become unhealthy for me and my two boys and I left. I did it right over several months packing and moving our stuff , saving money, hired lawyer, started counseling, filed divorce. I was making a clean break for my new life. But I didn’t know narcissim back then and he loved bombed me BIG and my support team (family) encouraged me to go back too. To be truthful it was the biggest mistake of my life. Shoulda woulda coulda. So 15 years later , i’m still here struggling between knowing the thing my head tells me to do, while my heart is screaming just as loud. But don’t pity me because I currently chose to stay, maybe a last ditch effort so I can walk with my head held high that i did try but while I may always love him I do not have to accept this covert, stealth, tender emotional abuse (camoflouged as love) any longer and wal k away and never look back, since my kids are grown.

Twindaddy says October 2, 2014

“Typically, this is because one parent was codependent themselves, and the other had exploitative traits. ”

My gawd, you just described my parents…

    Anonymous says August 8, 2015

    My parents too … A terrible abusive mother ( I was the scapegoat child) I got over it after they had both died.. Then I met the narc and fell in love…
    The rest is history.. It’s fascinating but terrible about the unhealed childhood wounds. … But it all makes sense tho it doesn’t help to get the now ex narc out of my head.

The Girl in Long Shorts says October 2, 2014

This is fantastic, Kim, thank you. This type of abuse is so horrifically damaging and, unfortunately, it is very seldom talked about. It’s important to know that there are others out there who can ‘see’ it….who will validate that experience and help the victim shift perception a bit.

betternotbroken says October 2, 2014

Reblogged this on betternotbroken and commented:
Another reblog? YES! This is so timely for me, does your abuser love you? Ask a better question, do you love your abuser or has the violence forged trauma bonds and the tedious, childish cycle of punishment and reward system conditioned you into a drone who seeks comfort from the person viewing you with contempt and treating you cruelly? Another excellent post from Kim Saeed and a blog that has helped me tremendously. Are you a male bee? Then you are not a drone.

Tilly says October 2, 2014

I don’t know if my case is appropriate. But my business partner is a narcissist. I struggle all the time if it is me that can’t see that it is only work or that he uses his manipulistic games to get what he wants. He says all the time that he doesn’t want personal relations but his way to manipulate me is always on a relational level. He uses the fact that we are a man and a woman and the attraction between us as a way to keep me in his power. Where I was a confident and happy business woman he has managed to make me doubt myself all the time. He has a way to make me believe impossible things and to make my values in business seem lame and weak. One day he treats me like his best friend and confident and even his lover , the other day I do not exist. When I get angry (allways a bad idea) he stays away only to come back and play his game of charm over and over again. He is losing business because people get to know his strategy and if he does it’s never his fault. When I criticise the people he trusts in the company he only gives them more power. A former business partner of him (also an attractive woman)had fled away and warns me time ant time again that you can’t win with him.
I want to get away but I am so afraid that I will miss his charismatic presence. And it is true I am allways waiting for him, even now when I am writing this I am simply waiting for a call, a message or his arrival at the company.
We took over another company and the former owner is also a woman , a little bit older and with her feet firmly on the ground, intelligent and with a good relationship with her husband. I watch her behavior around him from the beginning and she does the same thing as me. Where she initially had her reservations about him, I see her adoration for him growing by the day. Incredible. She even cried in front of him, thinking he would understand her weakness. Knowing him he is as cold as ice and aftwerwards he told me it was important to have values. Straight bullshit. I find it incredible to watch him doing his game over and over again and I have no power to leave or take distance from him. As I said , at the same time I crave his presence all the time.
Any thoughts on how to behave?

emergingfromthedarknight says October 2, 2014

Excellent. Being trauma bonded is a living nightmare. It can go on for years and even when you are discarded the symptoms remain. For me I have had sleep difficulties for over 7 years. I was a good recipient for projected shame as I was a recovering alcoholic. I recently had an incident with two family members which resembled difficulties with my ex narcissist, which showed me how I got set up to attract this kind of relationship in the first place. Breaking free is really difficult but possible. The narc makes you feel everything you did was the problem. I spent one year apologising by email for all the “mistakes” which were often me trying to take care of myself and not catering to his every demand until the penny dropped, he did not love me and was abusive emotionally. Thank God for internet sites such as this, they give so much assistance. Loving ourselves is the only way to break free. And the experience helps to educate us as to what is damaging and does not serve our spirit.

Ness says October 2, 2014

Excellent post, thankyou, I did experience about half of the list the that indicates trauma bonding. I have finally left my narcissist behind. In the end it was easier as while he was still pursuing me to convince me to come back to him for the eighth time he found his next suitable victim. That was finally it for me thank God. Even after the horror of abuse I have never experienced and I am 48 now. I still get the odd e-mail, following an operation that he new I had booked and recently a message for my birthday. Ignored both and it was easy. I look back now and wonder what the hell I actually saw in him. Additionally why the hell I stayed through all the abuse. I have changed for the better following this though. There is a positive if you can see the growth of yourself through the pain they inflict on you. I am stronger, more confident and will never let myself down again. I was brainwashed, that is what they do. That’s why no contact is vital, they are so good at the manipulation you have to protect yourself by stopping all communication. What a nightmare, but out of it now and in only three months life is getting better as now I am in control and there is no more chaos. These guys sell you faulse messages constantly to keep you down and hooked into their game. You have to find the strength to propel yourself out of their grip. I think I could spot a narcissist from a mile off now lol. I find the memory of abuse difficult to get beyond but don’t pine for him at all. He’s someone elses train wreck now.

    Kathleen says September 18, 2016

    It’s amazing how easy it is to spot a narcissist after you leave one.

Sian jones says October 1, 2014

I am struggling badly to end my four and half relationship with my narcissist boyfriend.
I’ve ended it about 30 times but he hooks me back. I’m weak very weak when it comes to him. He has brainwashed me. I’m 42. He’s 45. And yet he can be mr wonderful and mr vile, nasty and horrible. I must be sick to want and yearn to be with a man like that.

    Kim Saeed says October 1, 2014

    Sian, I know it feels you must be sick, but it’s actually a very natural phenomenon as it relates to our being in a relationship with a Narcissist. Us (pleaser/fixer) and them (taker/controller).

    Usually, we are drawn into these relationships because of old childhood wounds and they bring them all to the surface and use them to manipulate us into staying even when the relationship is toxic to our well-being. We constantly seek their love and approval, which never seems to come around full-circle.

irenedesign2011 says October 1, 2014

Great and true post Kim, it took me many years to come through and I do have the scars, but it is possible.

    Kim Saeed says October 1, 2014

    Thank you for commenting, Irene. It took me a while, too. I’m glad, though, that we are both proof that leaving is certainly possible <3

      irenedesign2011 says October 1, 2014

      And the only way to survive 😉

happinessweekly says October 1, 2014

Wow! Great post, Kim. This was me – I’m not afraid to say it because finally I can say you CAN get past it and you CAN be without them. I’m still amazed he was able to get me to that point, but I can recognise now that all the power he had was all the power I gave him. And it’s still the same, when I get hurt or upset or think about him or sense him in my dreams, it’s me – and I recognise that and give myself more love and care to keep going forward. If I can survive it, I know others can get past it too. Proper support (you’re in the right place, people!) and a buddy who knows what it’s like and can keep you on track during recovery. It’s such a horrible feeling being a trauma-bonded codependent – and I know it doesn’t FEEL like it – but you can choose not to be, and regain your power and sense of self. I still have friends who don’t understand and see my upset as missing – I miss him like a hole in the head – the reason for the upset is that I’m still processing the pain a year on. I can still function but to heal completely it needs to be processed. It’s important your honest with yourself and know yourself really well. Don’t let anyone unintentionally trigger you backwards. x

    Kim Saeed says October 1, 2014

    Thanks for stopping by, Sarah. Very powerful statement, “I can recognize now that all the power he had was all the power I gave him.” Funny how it’s so clear once we finally leave…that, and the fact that we do have choices and power over our situation. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, “She believed she could, so she did. She turned her can’ts into cans and her dreams into plans” <3

Fellow Survivor says October 1, 2014

Right on Kim. I remember after the first “horrifying” rage attack on me and the resulting crazy on my part her saying ‘ I never really loved you” 18 months out and I am still trying to make sense of it all.

inspiredbythedivine1 says October 1, 2014

This is an excellent, well informed, useful post. I’m glad you have your blog and put information like this out there. If it helps one person escape an abusive relationship, it is more than worth every effort you put into writing it.

    Kim Saeed says October 1, 2014

    Thank you for your encouraging words, Inspired. That’s my motto, too…if I can help even one person leave their abusive environment, it is all well worth it!

      Emma says October 9, 2014

      Truly excellent I have been out of my abusive relationship for years now and took up until recently by the power of God to claim back my power !!! Emotional abuse is hardest because it’s not visible and hard to explain !!! Thank you for a absolutely awesome post

        Kim Saeed says October 11, 2014

        Thank you, Emma. I’m so glad to know you found my article helpful <3

        Angela Lockard says July 6, 2016

        I’m weak… I’m stuck… I’m ashamed… I’m ugly… I’m powerless… I’m scared… I’m hurt… I’m unworthy… I’m low… I’m unmotivated… I’m directionless… I’m frozen… I’m angry… I’m sick… I’m exhausted… I’m lost… I’m confused… I’m fragmented… I’m speechless… I’m dead… and I just want to be gone.

        He swore he’d never lay a hand on me. After exhaustively repeating how this one specific need of mine isn’t being met, he blows up on me.
        -I’VE BEEN TRYING SO HARD… WHY don’t you see that? You do feel, right? Do you spiral into chaos

          Kim Saeed says October 2, 2016

          Hi Angela,

          If he’s laying his hands on you, I’d recommend visiting your local domestic violence center, getting a case manager, and leaving the residence if the two of you live together.

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