Narcissists are tricky.
The signs of an abusive relationship and trauma bonding to a narcissist can be easy to miss, especially when you have fear of abandonment issues.
If you find yourself in a pattern of being magnetically drawn to abusive relationships with a narcissist or toxic person, then this could be a sign of trauma bonding.
In fact, when you feel so madly in love, you can overlook the signs of abuse and their narcissistic personality.
How do you break a trauma bond with a narcissist when you are blinded by the fantasy of being loved?
In order to recognize if you’re trauma bonding with a narcissistic abuser, you may notice that you will do whatever it takes to get the love from an abuser in order to escape the despair of feeling unloved or discarded.
Love is a fundamental need, but why does a person seek love from an abuser?
Trauma bonding occurs as the result of ongoing cycles of mental and emotional abuse, in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates powerful emotional bonds that are resistant to change.
Therefore, abuse is accepted with the reinforcement of love that can form a strong bond that is difficult to break.
How does the illusion of being loved camouflage the abuse?
In trauma bonding, the attachment bond is so strong that it stops the victim from seeing the abuse, confusing it for love.
In the love bombing stage of an abusive relationship, you can quickly feel deeply in love when you’re being idealized, which is when they hook you into the relationship.
Once you’ve been lured into a relationship with someone who confesses how much they love you, you don’t really notice the red flags of abuse when they slowly creep in.
The feeling of love overrides everything else.
The intense feeling of love can cloud your judgment, causing you to overlook the signs of an abusive relationship and mistake it for love.
You can convince yourself that the insults or put-downs can mean that he or she loves you so much, telling yourself that they’re just being honest with you.
When they turn the problem around to be your fault, you end up believing them because you trust them, more than you trust yourself or your judgment.
Slowly, you lose yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship because you feel your abuser knows you better than you know yourself because you believe they love you so much.
Gradually, the abuse becomes accepted and tolerated, when you find ways to get them to love you.
You’ll do whatever it takes to get the love you crave, at the expense of yourself.
You can get hooked on the love bombing and want more. When you get abused you learn to behave in ways that get you the love you want.
The actual truth is, the abuser often needs the relationship for supplies in order to fuel the empty void within themselves, or controls the relationship to make up for their own insecurities.
You can be punished if you don’t comply, forcing you to give in to their every need, until you gradually become controlled and fear the person.
The neediness, possessiveness, and jealousy can be disguised as love.
Their actual insecurity can look like he or she wants you so much, but in actual fact, it’s a way to control you.
In order to maintain the fantasy of being loved, you end up feeling sorry for them or want to help the person who is abusing you or controlling you.
The more you focus on pleasing a narcissist, you lose sight of yourself.
Nothing will be enough to fill the empty void of a narcissist, the more you give the more you lose yourself to their needs.
You give because it feels like love, but it is not real love. A person who loves you will not abuse you.
So, what causes you to be trauma bonded in an abusive relationship?
Trauma bonding develops during the attachment bond that is created through repetitious abusive or traumatic childhood experiences that causes this pattern to become internalized as a learned pattern of behavior.
If you related to your parent through a trauma bond, you’re familiar with adapting your behavior to fit in with an abuser in order to get the love you needed from them.
This may mean walking on eggshells to avoid conflict or pleasing them so you can feel loved.
It is easy to put the abuse outside of one’s awareness when you crave love from an abuser.
You can suppress yourself to accommodate the needs of an abuser in order to avoid their emotional outbursts.
You can end up putting up with abuse in the hope of feeling loved.
Sometimes, one parent may have been a narcissist where the child put lots of effort into trying to get the love they wanted, so they become attracted to narcissists as a way to fulfill this wish for unmet love
If you had unmet needs of love — such as emotional neglect or abuse — you can also develop feelings of love towards a narcissist in relationships.
Being drawn to an abusive narcissist allows you to vicariously stay attached to the parental abuser, with the hope of making up for unmet love.
You can sacrifice yourself for love, giving up your own needs in the never-ending conquest of finding love.
If you experienced abuse in childhood, the way you sought love can become a familiar pattern, being drawn to abusive partners in ways that feel familiar to you.
This traumatic attachment bond allows you to become hooked on the toxic relationship by finding ways to get the love you long for.
But what happens when the other person discards you or abuses you?
Once you experience the withdrawal of love, you end up chasing your abuser to get back the original feeling from the love bombing, going back to the abuser and ignoring the abuse altogether.
In trauma bonding with a narcissistic person, you can end up minimizing and denying the abuse, in the hope of getting love, when you’ve become emotionally dependent on an abusive relationship.
The bond is so strong that you fear losing it and you will try hard to fix your partner.
The desire for love can be the perfect bait that an abusive narcissist hooks into.
When you’re meeting all their needs, you feel loved and good enough, which allows the abuse to continue.
If you internalized that you were not good enough, then you can learn to please your abuser as a way to get the love you want.
You end up attracting abusive partners with the wish to be good enough for them, so you get the love and approval you’re looking for.
Abuse can feel normal because it’s the internal bond that keeps you attached to the parental abuser so that you do not face the underlying pain of abandonment.
Sometimes, it is hard to break the trauma bond with a narcissist and face the feelings of abandonment, because it brings up the pain of the original longing, causing the person to find ways to re-attach themselves to the abuser.
So, it feels more comfortable staying attached to the abuser through a toxic trauma bond, in order to hold onto the feeling of being loved.
Being attached through a trauma bond allows you to avoid facing the pain of unmet love in the hope that an abuser can make you feel good enough.
How do you overcome a trauma bond with a narcissist?
It’s hard to break free from a trauma bond with a narcissist when you ignore the signs of abuse and mistake it for love.
Sometimes it is hard to give the relationship a reality check that it deserves.
The real antidote to letting go of a trauma bond is recognizing the signs of abuse.
You can recover from a trauma bond by learning to trust your own judgment, identify the red flags of abuse and not let your need for love blind you into a fantasy that is not real love.
If you ground yourself in reality, you can notice the signs of an abusive partner and not confuse them for love.
You can tell if you’re trauma bonded to a narcissist because the loving feelings are magnified and disproportionate to how the person really treats you.
In a trauma bond, you can overlook the abuse or controlling behavior because you think it’s love.
You could be staying in a relationship with a narcissist because you’re waiting for them to acknowledge how they treat you, thinking they will change because they love you.
You may be blinded by the fantasy that the narcissist loves you.
You can be flogging a dead horse if you think a narcissist will want to change for your benefit.
Narcissists usually try to win the partner back by telling them whatever they want to hear.
The only way to break the trauma bond with a narcissist is letting go of the fantasy that you’re loved in a real way.
You’re loved as a source of supply who fulfills the narcissist’s needs and that’s why narcissists hover and come back because they struggle to lose their supplies.
You can recover from a trauma bond if you learn to find love within yourself, give up the hope of obtaining unmet love and go for the healthy relationship that you truly deserve.
If you heal the attachment wounds deep down within yourself, you can rebuild yourself, while recognizing the red flags of abuse, and not distort it as love.
Nancy Carbone is a relationship therapist who is specialized in the treatment of narcissistic disorders and relational trauma from the Psychoanalytic International Masterson Institute in New York. If you want to break the cycle of abuse from trauma bonding contact Nancy at Counselling Service Melbourne for a consultation.
This article was originally published at Counselling Service Melbourne. Reprinted with permission from the author.