I just reblogged a post about trauma bonding, but wanted to add a separate post with a few thoughts. Understanding trauma bonding (Stockholm Syndrome) is critical to understanding abuse with an intimate partner.
I’ve no doubt that trauma bonding is present in my life and the dynamics of my marriage. It’s next to impossible to sort through and know definitively what I feel at times because of trauma bonding.
When you’ve been wounded on the inside, where the bruises and cuts and loss of emotional blood don’t show on the outside, acts of normal kindness and affection from the one who hurt you can feel almost euphorically drug like, as though you’ve been going through some kind of horrific withdrawal, and then relief shoots throughout your entire being.
I’m experiencing days of relative peace here right now. Well, as peaceful as it can be with a large family and all the territory that can cover. What I’m really talking about is relative peace with my passive aggressive husband. Issues and incidents have come up and when I speak up about it, he’s pausing and stepping back, then making efforts to behave differently instead of the usual accusations and withdrawal.
I wouldn’t jump in and say he’s changed. I won’t say that he isn’t trying to change either. I just know that my rational mind recognizes that he’s seeing me change, and he’s realizing that if his behaviors don’t change, our marital status probably will.
Does that make me happy? Not really. I don’t want someone behaving well to ‘keep’ me. I want someone behaving in ways that are choices made within his own soul because they align with his own character and ethics and conscience. That’s an entirely different thing. I’m not expecting perfection, because heaven knows how often I blunder and choose stupidly and wrongly, even against my own conscience. I’m wanting his battle to be one he fights for his own growth, for the sake of what’s true and right. Not for the purpose of me staying with him.
I want him to treat me well because he loves me. Not because if he doesn’t, he’ll lose me.
What does this have to do with trauma bonding? It’s because trauma bonding can make me feel ridiculously relieved at the peaceful status quo, and so many days of relative peace lead me to taking sips of hope. Misplaced hope can lead me to unwarranted vulnerability, which leads to being hurt, which leads to new trauma, which leads to the desire for relief in the form of acts of kindness and affection. What a cycle.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to take advantage of the peaceful lull, but after so many years, I’m not relaxed, but waiting for the shoe to drop. It’s almost like I have to take my own hands and put them on my own face, and turn my eyes purposefully to stare at objective knowledge and history. Look… look, and be wisely wary.