Traumatic bond: You hurt me but I need you

Traumatic bond: You hurt me but I need you

The traumatic bond is characterized by an insane attachment to a narcissistic aggressor. The victim, instead of avoiding the relationship, tends to get carried away. This is very similar to the Stockholm syndrome.

Traumatic bond: You hurt me but I need you

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2022

Love relationships in which love hurts and destroys happiness and self-esteem are more common than we think. Despite this, the person is unable to break that bond, because the affection and attraction are blinding, to the point of minimizing the damage. The traumatic link traces a psychological network very similar to that of the Stockholm syndrome.

Seen from the outside, this situation may seem strange and contradictory. Why does one come to tolerate the intolerable? Why continue to be with someone who humiliates, mistreats and emotionally abuses us?

The truth is that very often in the field of human relations latent psychological mechanisms are activated that it is good to know. First, it will be useless to tell the person to get away from the partner as soon as possible.

Co-dependence can be so intense that the mind stops being rational: emotions and unhealthy attachment take over. The traumatic bond is destructive, but it feeds basic needs such as the fear of abandonment.

A trauma-induced bond has a victim and an emotional aggressor as protagonists. A relationship in which the former craves to be loved and cared for, while the other tries to keep power.

What is the traumatic link?

The idea of ​​the traumatic link began to be explored during the XNUMXs thanks to the research of psychologists Donald G. Dutton and Susan L. Painter. They analyzed hundreds of cases of abused women living with their attackers.

The first conclusion that was reached was that, even in normal situations, sometimes fear is not a mechanism that favors flight or confrontation. These bonds are marked by submission and a clear imbalance of power: one person submits the other.

The submissive person is tied to the other by a crazy affection to which he does not react. What is the reason for this permissiveness and tolerance of suffering?

Generally these relationships follow a circular pattern that goes something like this: "now I give you affection, now they mistreat you, you get angry, you forgive me, and then we start over".

The traumatic link is the glue that binds the victim to the aggressor and that feeds a circle made up mainly of suffering.

Attachment and the narcissistic personality

In the XNUMXs, psychologists Donald Dutton and Susan Painter conducted a study to better understand these relationships.

The research found that many women who tried to leave their abusive partners failed because they had developed extreme emotional attachment. Added to this was the aggressor's low self-esteem and dominant personality.

Not by chance, most traumatic connections are established with narcissistic profiles. As we all know, these figures are able to manipulate, control and direct their victims, preventing any form of psychological and emotional resistance.

The cycle of abuse and addiction: when affection destroys

The victim's emotional, cognitive, and behavioral pattern shows his addiction to unhealthy love. Ultimately, it is an attachment that tolerates everything.

Co-dependence consists of low self-esteem, partner idealization, fear of loneliness and self-sacrifice towards the narcissist.

In the same way, in order for the traumatic bond to be maintained, a cycle of abuse is often triggered very precise that it follows certain phases:

  1. The relationship is characterized by frequent tensions (quarrels, abuses, humiliations, offenses…).
  2. The victim decides to react in the face of a more serious affront.
  3. The abuser acts quickly by changing his behavior, showing affection, repentance, and an express readiness for change.
  4. Reconciliation takes place, which on average is intense and rewarding. This phase is followed by a brief period of apparent harmony.
  5. The abuse and mistreatment reappear and the cycle begins again.

One of the main characteristics of the traumatic bond is that when the victim is harmed by his aggressive partner, he expects to receive his comfort and forgiveness. This mad need has repercussions on the traumatic bond itself.

How to behave in the event of a traumatic relationship?

The traumatic bond feeds on the imbalance of power in which moments of punishment alternate with moments of reward (such as reconciliations). To solve the problem, the victim has to break this pattern, but this can be difficult because she often finds herself completely isolated.

Narcissists tend to separate the victim from family and friends, which is why it is more difficult for her to end the traumatic bond once and for all.

Social support is essential in these cases: friends, colleagues, neighborhood and social services must be attentive and sensitive figures to these realities.

Ways to leave behind a traumatic bond

To cope and leave behind a traumatic bond, the following strategies would be helpful:

  • Separation of the victim from the aggressor. The victim must recognize and become aware of the emotional abuse, mistreatment, co-dependence and unhealthy attachment that characterize the traumatic bond.
  • Development of a support network. The person must identify new figures to turn to in order to talk, share, feel listened to and helped. This proximity to alternative figures to the aggressor will allow you to see your reality in a different way, as well as to feel stronger and set new goals.
  • Psychological therapy in these cases is essential to heal the traumatic wound and rebuild identity and self-esteem, as well as to offer new strategies to the person so that he does not fall back into emotionally abusive relationships.


Many times those who show a greater tendency to develop these emotional bonds have suffered trauma during childhood or the reasons lie in the education received.

The work of the psychologist in these cases must be more profound and delicate for heal the signs of a trauma that persists and which constantly manifests itself in every relationship. Undoubtedly a very complex reality.

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