Betrayal Bonds

How Betrayal Bonds Keep You Chained to Narcissistic Abuse

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When we think of trauma, we don’t usually think of betrayal as being a source of it. 

Your partner calls you an insulting name, uses you for money, disrespects your boundaries, or sleeps with your neighbor. Your friends tell you to leave them.

Your mom insults your appearance, asks intrusive questions, and causes a rift between you and your siblings. Your friends say the relationship is not healthy and you must set boundaries.

But you DON’T leave your toxic partner or set boundaries with your mother.

Instead, you avoid spending time with these friends and strengthen your relationship with the abusers.

Betrayal bonds are the glue keeping you attached to abuse. They’re a form of brainwashing that thrives on the trauma of breaking spoken or unspoken ‘contracts’ within intimate relationships where trust is required.

Make no mistake: you can’t heal from betrayal bonds (also known as trauma bonding) if you don’t actively accept that it’s happening.  Unfortunately, many people in abusive relationships with narcissists tend to form a sort of tolerance against repeated betrayals.  This is especially common for narcissistic abuse victims who are dependent upon the narcissist in their lives for housing, finances, or employment.

For many, pushing betrayal out of one’s conscious awareness is a survival strategy but, eventually, it becomes toxic to the targeted individual on a mental, physical, and spiritual level.  

What are Betrayal Bonds?

Narcissists use betrayal trauma as reinforcement to control their victims.

Imagine you and a friend were in a car accident together. Your friendship strengthens after the accident because you both went through a traumatic experience together.  But, this kind of trauma isn’t rooted in betrayal.

Narcissists, however, use betrayal trauma to manipulate and control your emotions.

The narcissist knows triggering fights, digging up your deepest fears, and cheating on you repeatedly is powerful. These events stir up your emotions. The narcissist understands that the trauma will make you feel emotions like shame, guilt, and worthlessness. That’s the whole point.

However, it goes deeper than that.

Narcissists also understand that the deep valleys of trauma leave you craving the positive peaks too. They hold (albeit superficial) emotions like love and gratitude hostage and dole them out in insignificant amounts to keep you begging for more.

Think of it this way.

Going through narcissistic abuse is a form of biochemical addiction. When someone is addicted to a drug, it’s fun at first – that’s why they start using. However, their tolerance builds as they continue taking the drug. Eventually, they build a dependence. They have more bad days staving off withdrawal than good days getting high.

In the depths of narcissistic abuse, you’re in the dependence stage of addiction.

The narcissist gives you tiny “hits” of love while flooding you with trauma most of the time.  An example of this would be their making a promise to you that they will stop being unfaithful, but later you discover they never stopped.

It’s critical you realize that these “hits” of love are not genuine. They’re simply a strategic part of betrayal bonds.

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How Betrayal Bonds Hold Back Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Stockholm syndrome, betrayal bonds, trauma bonding – these are all terms describing similar phenomena.

Trauma bonds are vital for narcissists to manipulate your emotions, thoughts, and actions. It’s like being in a cult.

The narcissist thrives on the attention you give them during trauma. They love that you care so much to fight back, argue, and defend yourself so they can keep tearing you down. It’s what they live for.

They also love that the trauma strengthens the bond you share.

Surely you wouldn’t put up with this behavior from anyone else. Surely you must care deeply for them if you haven’t left.

They’ll use this as evidence to claim your relationship is intimate and unlike anything else. They’ll tell you other people can’t understand the complexities and layers you experience together.

And so you isolate yourself. You stop talking to your friends. You spend all your time, energy, and thoughts on the narcissist. The abuse seems normal, and you assume this is as good as it gets.

Trauma Bonding and the Path to Betrayal

Betrayal bonds are vital components of brainwashing.

Abusers isolate their victims, devalue their identity, and subject them to a traumatic event. The goal is to normalize the abuse so the victim won’t see a problem or possibly leave.

Narcissists follow a similar strategy with trauma bonding – this is called the path to betrayal.

Love Bombing

The narcissist first needs you to falsely believe they’re compassionate and loving. They’ll shower you with gifts and attention.  They’ll make you believe you’re soulmates.

What you remember as an enthralling and joyful period of the relationship was actually a ruse of emotional manipulation to rope you into the narcissist’s trap.  It’s also what activates the “arousal” neuropathway of addiction.

Initial trauma

A narcissist will begin testing your boundaries with insults, backhanded compliments, or slights on your character. They want to see how you react so they know if you’re a good supply for long-term abuse.  Once they’ve been cleared for the initial trauma, they will begin ‘upping the ante’ to gauge just how far they can go.  Slowly, like the metaphor of the boiled frog, you will begin tolerating higher levels of betrayal and trauma.


If you defend yourself after the initial trauma, the narcissist will attempt to manipulate your thoughts and emotions with gaslighting. They’ll try to convince you that you took their words the wrong way or that they didn’t actually mean what they said/did. 

When it comes to narcissists, perspecticide is always the end goal: narcissists don’t want you to think for yourself, they want you to think for them.

More trauma

Now that the narcissist knows you’ll accept their gaslighting, they’ll kick the abuse up a few notches. Narcissists often wait until you’re in a vulnerable position before they start their most intense abuse, such as after marriage, living together, or moving far away from your support system.

Minimizing and Projecting

In addition to constant gaslighting, the narcissist will also follow up intense abuse by minimizing it and projecting it back onto you. The narcissist will tell you they’re actually the victim, and what they did/said wasn’t so bad.

Maintenance Love Bombing

By this point, the initial love-bombing of the relationship is gone, and you find yourself suffering from worthlessness, guilt, and isolation. You welcome the short bursts of love the narcissist gives out in tiny pieces in-between fights. These instances of love bombing are important for reinforcing the betrayal bonds.  This is why love bombing is always followed by hate bombing.

Repeated Cycle

The cycle of trauma, gaslighting and manipulation, and love bombing continues indefinitely until you leave or the narcissist discards you for a new supply.

What Do Betrayal Bonds Feel Like? 9 Signs

Betrayal bonds are tough to spot while you’re in the grip of narcissistic abuse. After all, the whole point is to brainwash you. Here are a few symptoms and signs you’re in the midst of trauma bonding.

  1. You defend, justify, or explain the narcissist’s abusive behavior to friends and family.
  2. You’ve given up explaining the abuse and isolated yourself from your support system – often at the narcissist’s suggestion or demand.
  3. You expect the narcissist will change one day even though they keep repeating the same abuse.
  4. Fights are unproductive (that’s by design). There’s no healthy communication, and the narcissist always turns your words around.
  5. The narcissist is always the victim – even when you bring up a clear-cut situation in which they hurt you. You may be mislabeled as the abuser.
  6. You fixate on the narcissist’s “good” (usually shallow) qualities like their natural talents, sex, money, job, or social status.
  7. You find yourself mourning the pilot stages of the relationship and believe things can go back to the way they were during the initial love bombing stage.
  8. You hide the narcissist’s most abusive behavior out of embarrassment or fear.
  9. You’ve accepted this situation as your fate. You assume no one will ever love you like the narcissist.

How to Start Breaking the Betrayal Bonds and Begin Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

The first step is to accept the narcissist will not change. If they could change, they would have or at least made some effort. Narcissists have no intention of changing for the better. They only introduce love bombing as a pay-off to keep you hooked and solidify betrayal bonds. It’s strategic and contrived.

Next, it’s important to talk to someone you trust about the abuse candidly. The narcissist has strategically isolated you from your support system to avoid this. Reach out to old friends or find new ones you trust.

If you can’t leave yet, don’t fight back. The narcissist thrives on fighting to solidify trauma bonds. Ignore them or give one-word answers.

Finally, the only way to free yourself from trauma bonding is to go 100% No Contact for good. If you share custody with the narcissist in your life, Extreme Modified Contact should be implemented.  Comprehensive narcissistic abuse recovery is critical to avoid falling into the trap of betrayal bonds in the future

If you’re ready to go deeper and change your life right now, I offer a wide range of effective resources and techniques to protect against toxic people – in my bestselling program, The Essential Break Free Bootcamp.

I’m excited to share with you the psychological tools I and thousands of others have used to heal from narcissistic abuse.

Explore techniques derived from behavioral therapy (vetted by the psychological and neuro-psychological communities) to finally heal your life.

Learn more here!

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Leave a Comment:

Mickie says May 31, 2023

Thank you , i am very so done blocked everything i want nothing to do with him

Chris says March 30, 2023

What do you do if your daughter is the narcissist and they use your grandchildren to keep you in line? How do you walk away from your kid and grandkids? This is by far my worst fear coming true!

Gerhard Botha says January 20, 2023

This is so helpfull. I am in a relationship with a women who show lots of this signs. But most of the time it shows that she try to be good. I can see most of the actions may come in the genetics from the father. Thank you for sharing this with me.

Liberty says July 6, 2021

Yes. This happened to a good friend of mine, she was in this cycle for many years…on and off.
He was an ordained Buddhist, mantra leader, mentor and ‘intuitive’ coach, soulful singing group leader and an utter victim mentality and obvious covert narcissist.
She would not listen to me and claimed he had told her they were twin flames, and so she would work harder on herself to heal, thinking it was all her fault. I always knew she had gone back to him as she would disappear which tells me on some level, she knew that those who truly cared for her, would worry for her wellbeing. He has a trail of women who he has done this too and continues to.
Thankfully she has broken free this time. I sent her your website and youtube channel. I have so many beautiful friends who have succombed to this type of toxic connection at least once in their lives, myself included.
If any of you come across a charming and seemingly successful man named Mahasukha….my advice, if you are empathic and have a big and beautiful heart…. RUN!!! He is all smoke and mirrors, don’t get blindsided by his charm or his heart rending sob stories- he is an empty shell, looking for sources to fill an insatiable black hole inside him which will never be filled.
Be proud and thankful that you can love and feel and have so many beautiful qualities that narcs sadly only copy and imitate, for their own ends, they do not or will ever be able to experience true, real, heartfelt, pure emotion….which yes is sad, but never, never, ever think for one moment that you can heal them or love them back to life.

Anonymous says June 15, 2021

I am on this situation and idk how to get out we just had a baby together I’ve had plenty of chances to get out

    Jo says July 23, 2021

    Are you ok? Are you still with him? I’m so sorry you’ve meet a narcissist, I am 4 months free of mine, he attempted contact lastnight, it has really thrown me. But I know how to get back to my safe place. It is important that you think logically right now, you are a new mum and have a child to protect, which means you must be protected. If am
    wrong in assuming physical abuse, I apologise. If I am right you must leave. It will not get better. It can and most likely will escalate, on several occasions I thought I might die. I have two daughters, I can’t leave them but I could leave him. It’s really f**ken hard but I promise you one day you will be so proud of yourself for leaving and re-building yourself. I know I am looking forward to that day, I have had small glimpses already. Please ignore the embarrassment and fear just long enough to tell several people, more than one. This will motivate you into leaving, because we don’t tell people what behaviours we endure because we are ashamed. They groom you into this ashamed place, it’s a tactic. They are sick sick dangerous individuals. This is not an acceptable way of life. Please reach out and tell people now. And as annoying and constant as the ‘no contact’ advise is, it’s legit. Trust me!

Michael Varley says March 14, 2021

I am a narcissist and this is all very true about my behavior.

Shari Ball says February 26, 2021

my poem:
“Your turn to dance”
His music never ends
Still he wants his pay
Really…not caring
You chose him anyways!

He’ll rock your world
If you cross his path
His reward is your purse
No matter whats inside.

You love his music
It sucked you in…
Patience is key,
Needing to rein em in

No more singing the blues
It’s your turn to dance
Another must pay the fiddler
Now or never to the end!

Shatora says February 4, 2021

It hurts I feel lost walk out on me no clue

Shari Ball says January 29, 2021

I am a 56 yr old women who finally escaped extreme abuse from my 1st husband after 11 years. I left him in “92”. Two years ago I met and “fell” for a man that turned out to be a narcissist. At its best! I could not believe he snuck up on me. I literally had no idea what was going on at first! Then one day he bitch slapped me several times, knowing the pain I was in. So I talked to a friend and she opened my eyes to “narcissist” I researched it….he was a textbook example. Every detail of what I learned was him. I felt every emotion known to mankind. Shame, guilt, depression, to name a few. I am not a stupid or ignorant women. This is how easy it is to get ducked in there black whole.
My advise: research research resesrch!!!! The more educated we are on this subject, the easier it is to leave the abuse and spot it a mile away!!! Wow!! What a ride!!!

Jade Stones says January 29, 2021

The narcissist in my life is my daughter who is 37. It is not possible to leave an offsprings life, however, after discovering the abuse that I have suffered all these years, finally has a name. Narcissistic Abuse.
She was coddled and cherished and long waited for. She became a bully at a very young age demanding that everyone in her world coddled and cherished her. I know that I birthed my worst enemy.
She has destroyed every relationship in my life, that I ever had and I am at a place where I want to cut off communication because she punishes me by withdrawing her children.
I am not included in any family events or affairs, and I cannot tell you when she last acknowledged my birthday apart from backhanded compliments.
Smearing me when she doesn’t get her way has only worsened through the years.
However, my biggest drawback is I am very maternal and I do not know how long I would be able to live with myself, if I did cut ties and heard that something it happened to her or one of her children. These kind of thoughts keep me as her target of abuse and her reason for problem in her life.
Thank you for bringing so much clarity, but would like to hear more about parent and adult child narcissism also.

Thank you.

Blackdiamonds says October 11, 2020

I’ve been with my NARC for 25 yrs! I’m so tired of all the lies! Games! Bull Crap! Drama! He has turned my family and so called associates against me! We have a 16yr old daughter together! My ex NARC has been sleeping with all the women in my family since 2017 Including my two oldest daughters by my ex husband! My ex NARC is still sleeping with all the women in my family including my two oldest daughters! I can’t ForGive my ex NARC or my family! My ex NARC is telling everything that he knows about me to my family and associates! My ex NARC is tapping my phone and listening to my conversations with people! My family thinks that my ex NARC is GOD because my family is worshiping the ground that my ex NARC walks on! I really dislike my family and really really dislike my ex NARC!

Kimberly V. says October 10, 2020

Wow. Everything i read is spot on. I left a 30 year narcissistic marriage. I shoulve left a long time ago and saved my son, who is now an adult ,from all the trauma. We both are mentally warped. I dont even know who I am how i should this point i am numb to any kind of feelings.

Madlady420 says August 14, 2020

Ive been married 45yrs to this man and there were signs but I was clueless. Then two yrs ago he was afflicted with ED that’s when he lost his control and became the out of closet narcissistic ass he is today. Now, I have had my share of ugliness in life. I spent years in therapy and I came way an empowered and stronger woman. I fell into the abuse but only because i felt sorry for him. I’d tell my self we’re in this together. Big Mistake. He’s a grade A narcissis. Please DO NOT follow what I’ve done because its really not healthy but I have to let it out and one here knows me in this forum. About six months ago I got fedup and turned the tables on him. I went to see a lawyer I got all the information they wanted and due to some mental issues I was given the hope I needed to carry on. I ignor him, he gets the silent treatment by the way (soonpointwiththat) I was brutally honest about his condition and I no long feel obligated to have sex, rather no sex that was painful and degrading. I started to see my friends again, he called me names accused me of being unfaithful. He threatened to throw me out on streets. yeehaw! Whatbi was waiting for. I slamed him with my very good news on that front. I gave him a copy of the papers from my lawyers. Told him now you n your broke weewee can pack it up and leave.. Every thing he did to me I returned right back at him. The best part was when he tried to play the victim, up until I started playing the voice recordings showed him the videos of his nasty behavior. He is not dealing well with being bested but thats his problem .Yes I’d won and I am not weak so therefore not his type, weak defenseless female. So for me there was silver lining. And ladies there is for you too. Creat it. Empower yourself. Believe in yourself. You are better then the narcissistic ass. Love and Light to all sisters

Anonymous says June 19, 2020

This makes me feel better knowing I’m not the only one struggling to leave. I have had chances and should’ve broken the ties with him more then once but I never completely do. The first time we were only dating, he was at my home and literally left in the middle of the night without a word. Within a 2 week period I think we broke up and got together 2-3 times. That should’ve been enough for me to let go. We eventually married. Less then 2 years in he packed up everything he owned in the house (conveniently waited for me to leave town). My college son went by the home to grab something and wondered why all of his stuff was packed up. I returned and we talked in person and he said he had to leave as he could no longer afford the “lifestyle” we had. I had planned to let him go, started looking at places and preparing for life without him. During this time he was working construction out of town. Within 2 weeks he said he missed me (complained I wasn’t contacting him) and asked if I’d look at places with him. It was probably a mistake but I agreed. 1 year after this the 3rd time he forced me in a situation of moving out without him, stating financially he could not afford rent (he had a failed online business and bankruptcy). He had a friend that would allow him to sleep in a spare room and he only had to help him with utilities. I could easily be on my own as this was a definite way out instead he is here more often then not. People have told me he should be helping with rent and bills but because he is not “officially” here and I’m told its too small of an apartment for him to have any room for his items he won’t help with bills. The reality is he wants a marriage but at the same time his bachelor time and his freedom (I’m literally a part time wife so he can have his “freedom” he so desperately needs. He sees nothing wrong with his own actions and justifies every decision he makes. There is never any guilt or remorse or apologies for anything wrong. When we argue he manages to always turn it into my fault & sometimes even the verbal abuse he has done in the past has become my fault. I think I haven’t left because I remember the charming guy I feel head over heels with (I think I was love bombed in the beginning) but he isn’t there. I’m also always feeling inadequate and criticized for the traits I feel he has. Even as far as my “routines” go I’m making him feel controlled. I need to leave but he agreed to go to counseling & want to see if that makes any difference with anything.

Anonymous says May 21, 2020

Thank you Kim. The way you describe what I live and have lived so precisely makes me feel so much more sane! Someone else REALLY knows. Im struggling with trauma bonding. I have failed miserably at breaking no contact many times but Im trying again. I am constantly followed, and hoovered. He makes it so difficult for me but Im not responding right now at all. Been a few days again no contact. I promised God and myself this time was it! No more breaking contact. Its soooo hard. It feels like withdrawals! But this man is toxic to my soul. Kim…you are an angel. U have helped me so much. Your team too. Thank you ?

    Kimberly Amyx says December 30, 2020

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this. Does anyone else think they are ok one day but then the next day whack all the abusive memories come flooding back. It’s like a warfare inside yourself. I experienced something that actually scared me. I begin datin an old high school friend recently, he said something in a deep tone I curled up in a ball, crying (which I dont allow myself cause i was taught it shows weakness) and went to another place for a few minutes. What happened to me? The next day I found myself apologizing for crying showing what i was told is weakness. I still wil not let myself feel any type of emotional hurt. I trust noone. Always suspicious. Still have no idea who i am. But progress I have made is not thinking every comment made or question ask to me about anything is derogatory or a put down. The guy im dating ask me one night why I was frying something in butter. I lost my cheerios. Went off on the poor man. He only meant he had never seen anyone use butter when frying whatever it was. But i no longer do that. That’s progress right? I spent 30 years in abuse so I know it will take time. Now, I’m so worried about my adult son. He too suffered the abuse from his dad. He was called every horrible name imaginable, told he couldn’t do anything right, call worthless, useless, never amount to anything. My son and I both have an auto immune disease so according to my ex we were weak. Even though we worked our butts off on the family farm, which by the way, neither me or my son got anything because our lives were threatened. My son (and me) had guns and knives pulled on us many times. If my ex was arguing with one of us the other would intervene and start a fight just to get him away. My son is married has a son now. He is an excellent hisband and father but suffers mentally with depression, low self esteem, no confidence, from all the abuse he has seen, heard, and endured. We both blame ourself for not protecting the other. Now, i regret too not fighting the narc in court for what was rightfully mine. I walked away with a bag of clothes and my car. I was told I can still go back to court even though divorce has been final almost a year. I try not to even be near this man, but we luve in a very small community so it happens. And he always starts. Now, our son is right back to working with him in the family business. Scares me. I call my son beforw going to visit to make sure the narc isn’t there. Last time he showed up was a disaster. He made threats toward me and his own son right in front of our grandson
    . Now he is terrified. Any advice especially what i can do for my son. We don’t talk about much of this cause it hurts him so bad. I’m just lost right now.

Rose says March 17, 2020

Dear Kim

I share the same experience as Rugia, after 30 years of marriage, I finally awoke to the fact that I had lived with a monster. He discarded me without a touch of humanity..I struggle everyday to believe that “creatures” (he called himself a creature once when he was talking to my brother) like this really exist and I lived with one. I read the numerous articles on narcissism and it feels surreal that I am a victim but I know deep down it it is true, the discounting of my feelings and needs over time in subtle ways that I just grew to accept . So many years looking at other couples and hoping that the next time and then the next time it would be better.. but it never was. He is with his new supply but hovers pretending he cares what happens to me and my daughter. Months ago before I knew what a narcissist was I would have fallen for his manipulation but I saw him in his full glory when he dropped the mask and it scared the living day lights out of me! Even the expressions seemed “evil”, a term I have seen other people use but one I never thought I would use to describe someone , least of all someone I loved and trusted but it was real! I saw the pleasure on his face and he was almost licking his lips when he saw how much he was hurting me …
I get better everyday.. but the reality that I need to constantly and will have to forever protect myself from this person who was “my dream prince”who is in reality a predator ..still haunts me ..

Jane says March 2, 2020

Rugia, you are an exceptional writer. Your story mirrors my own exactly. I love the ending!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am hoping my story ends the same way.

Rugia says March 2, 2020

Dear Kim, am grateful for your support and guidance.
This is exactly what happened to me
All my life, I have never enjoyed reciprocal love.
Untill one day I thought I found what I have been longing for, after twenty four years.
When I first meet him I thought there’s no way I can love him not knowing he is the one I will fall in love with, the one my doom on marriage lies upon.
I fall in love without knowing untill it was too late, he make me believe that he loved me more than I can admit and of course he showed me love in the beginning.
I cry with joy, quite believing am the luckiest woman on Earth. Sadly I don’t see it coming… I was being heavily love bombed by a narcissist!
When the mask began falling off, my sweet moments vanished, each moment replaced with tears and self doubt.
I became the unstoppable supply that has given so much if herself.
The name calling begins, the lies, the failed promises, the isolation and worst of all, the silent treatment.
I feel so alone and wonder what happened to me, why can’t I make the relationship work not knowing that I am not the monster in disguise.
I cried many nights feeling neglected. I yearn for the man I loved, I yearn for the romantic moments, all was but lost.
I was constantly blamed even if it isn’t my fault, yet I constantly apologize even if the blame isn’t mine. I walked on eggshells all day trying to please the strange man I call husband not knowing that I am making a good supply.
I gave so much of myself and hoped and pray that he’ll change, I waited and waited but to no avail.
I was so drained that he insults me for it, people thought I was afflicted with sickness. I knew I was being emotionally abused but the love I bore for him will not let me think of desserting him let alone do it.
Untill one day when I truly woke from the spell, I got the courage enough to walk away and never looked back.

❤️❤️❤️ says March 2, 2020

… “If you can’t leave yet, don’t fight back.” …

Exactly where I am. I’m learning to not react when buttons are pushed, to give one word answers, but it’s difficult because he keeps increasing the pain level. When level 5 pain didn’t work, he goes to level 6. I am finding the one-word answers easier these days because, as difficult as it’s been for me, I truly don’t care about whatever topic he is raising. I’m a person who tends to care too much about the whole world. Losing my care about him has made me realize that his power over me and my life is relative to how much or how little I care. I’ve lost that care, I don’t even care for him as a human because what he does to people isn’t human. His is a deeply dark soul who bubbled up from the black ooze of hell. I won’t care about him or his life once I’m gone. I won’t miss him. Unraveling 22+ years of a life together is complicated, but once I’m out, I will bask in the first, sweet breath of freedom and not look back. My staying at this point is to make sure there are no lose ends he can pull. Anyone who believes his smears won’t deserve to be in my life either. He will just have to give up, go away, and fixate on another unfortunate target. Once this one is gone, it’s gone for good.

This article concisely organizes the phases of the narcissistic abuse patterning endured. I lived it in the exact order it is presented. It’s inconceivable to me that there are those who actually employ such an evil agenda against others. Being wounded as a child is no excuse for their treachery. They intend to hurt people. End of story.

Thank you for fighting the good fight to educate. They may try to minimize us as weak and worthless, but it’s really them who are nothing.

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