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 love 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.

Gaslighting

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.

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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 start healing from the chains of trauma bonds and move forward with REAL narcissistic abuse recovery, sign up for my Essential Break Free Bootcamp to develop the tools you need.

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3 comments
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 💜

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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 ..

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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.

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