Trauma bonding stinks

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.

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20 Responses to Trauma bonding stinks

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the ‘peace’ PJ even though you can never really relax with a PAH. I’m sick of analysing PA behaviour and I am trying to concentrate on my own, but something you said resonated with me. I once, whilst in therapy, explained to my husband that I am led by my ‘inner compass’ and I respond to events using my conscience. He looked at me completely blankly, and it became clear that he just made decisions completely based upon someone else’s approval or disapproval. His drives were external to him, not internal. So when he changed any behaviour it was to please someone else, and when they don’t continue to show approval he became increasingly resentful and eventually angry (narcissistic supply?). so yes, your husband changing behaviour to please you rather than himself feels like a ticking time bomb.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exodus says:

      Anonymous, You nailed it when you wrote that their behaviors were externally driven, not internal. What would they do if no one was watching? The only time Norman was ever nice to me was in front of people that he ‘needed’ approval from. He was using me to prove he was a nice man, a caring and thoughtful husband. I quit allowing him to use me as his pawn many years ago which is one reason I became so isolated. Their perception of the world around them is very ONE WAY ( all about them) and so they are either in a state of feeling high and mighty or in a state of feeling victim. All addicts have this mindset, all addicts are selfish people and narcissists are addicts with an addiction for admiration and approval.

      PJ’s, just keep focusing your thoughts on what you are going to do for yourself ( good, of course) next and then follow up with a positive action that will reinforce self worth. In the beginning, it’s absolutely necessary to go overboard and really force yourself to be selfish and set very strong boundaries. Everyone in your life will think you’ve lost your mind but they’ll adjust or they will jump ship. Either way, you win. You’ll eventually gravitate toward a less selfish state of mind but those boundaries will still be in place and trust me, you won’t allow anyone to compromise them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Newshoes says:

    This was an interesting post…. I recognize myself quite a bit with trauma bonding. For sure it sucks. I’m doing better since I left, I still have work to do though and more than likely I ll always have some residual issues stemming from being abused so long. No matter what though, I do see that it wasn’t my fault, my pah was at fault, I don’t blame him for everything, I have my part to play in it as well.

    PJ, I agree with you for wanting your pah to change because he loves you not because he wants to keep you. This is what happened to me, my ex pah and I went to therapy only for me to realize that he had only changed to keep me around, was it love no… Of course not and that s part of the reason I left, I knew as clear as blue sky day one afternoon that he didn’t love me one bit. In fact he didn’t even like me at all! So why keep me around, trauma bonding and co dependency. It was all I needed to say goodbye once and for all. I deserve to have a loving respectful relationship with my partner and if I can’t have that, then I don’t want a relationship at all. And in the end, it’s about loving and respecting yourself to be the best that you can be and to show my boys that they do not have to accept it either.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Seeing the Light says:

      Newshoes, to quote you: “PJ, I agree with you for wanting your pah to change because he loves you not because he wants to keep you. This is what happened to me, my ex pah and I went to therapy only for me to realize that he had only changed to keep me around, was it love no… Of course not and that s part of the reason I left, I knew as clear as blue sky day one afternoon that he didn’t love me one bit. In fact he didn’t even like me at all!” Exactly! Gregory (my pah) doesn’t love me at all and he doesn’t like me either! Now that I know that, it is actually a little freeing. Whenever, I read something about counseling to “save a marriage,” I know there would be no point here. It would totally be behavior modification to do the minimum required to get me to stay. To me that is just gross. It’s all so utilitarian and cold. He has already been playing a part for so long; why give him another script? Why be part a system that gives him pointers on how to use me longer than he already has?

      Like

      • Newshoes says:

        Yes exactly…. Explain that to a pah who only has one goal in mind, to keep you around so he can continue abusing you. Impossible. He will find every excuse in the book and mine was so good at it, I actually believed him. I’m glad I’m where I’m at in the process of separating myself from him, I’ve since worked on myself some more and I like me, it makes up for him not liking or even knowing me at all! I’ve also figured out now that I’m allowing myself the luxury of friends ( because it wasn’t something I could do easily with the pah around ) they like me too, turns out I’m not a bad person after all!

        Seeing, I’m glad for you. It is freeing! It’s an opportunity to get to know you too. Therapy sucked for us, he played the game as long as he could we ended therapy and not 6 months later, the abuse started to escalate again but it was all in my mind and he now apologized…. So…. If it s still happening then he s not really sorry, I don’t care what comes out of their mouths. They are only words and completely meaningless if someone does not back them up with the actions.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Seeing the Light says:

          Yes. Thank you for all of this, Newshoes. Oh, how I long to be able to start developing friendships again. I didn’t allow myself this “luxury” either – especially with my health issues and the limitations there. Of course they like you. From all I’ve read that you’ve written, I can’t imagine why not! Isn’t that something, though? We get so used to being treated this way, it’s such a switch when someone else actually likes us again.

          Like

  3. lonelywife07 says:

    Just posted this on my blog, from A Cry for Justice…

    Can Abusers Change?

    To say that abusers cannot change removes responsibility for sin. They can change, but the vast majority choose not to, which is what the experts state. When God punishes them, their punishment is just. Abusers have options for treatment and are accountable.

    Once the marriage covenant is broken through abuse, the abused partner does not need to stay in the marriage waiting for the abuser to change. The abuser’s recovery is a separate issue and his change is his own responsibility, not his wife’s. This is the mistake most churches make. These churches have over-sentimentalized marriage and are legalists.

    Did you catch that second line…” They can change, but the vast majority choose not to, which is what the experts state.”
    And that’s the simple truth….they can change….they just chose not to, because it’s far easier staying this way, hurting the ones they say they love…instead of working on themselves.
    And that’s why I’m making plans to separate after the first of the year.
    PA Man is choosing to stay this way…and that’s not love. And I want no part of that.

    That’s what you’re seeing PJ….you PAH is CHOOSING to change…for right NOW…because he’s sensing that you are pulling away.
    But as soon as he feels you’ve calmed down…his chosen behavior will rear it’s ugly head.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Newshoes says:

      That’s an awesome observations…. They can change but they choose not too… Thank you for sharing that Lonely…. Very very true. It’s a choice they could make isn’t it. That’s another conversation I had with mine, at some point they decided to NOT make the choice….

      Liked by 1 person

  4. traci buxton says:

    Wow, LIP, I loved these observations! I have been married 32 years to a pah, and one of the most dramatic crossroads of our marriage (so far) was at about 9 years. I offered him divorce as an out for him (the little co-dependent in me). It was a traumatic and tearful session where he pledged his love for me, etc. and I withdrew my offer. Almost immediately we entered into a honeymoon stage. The euphoria of saving something so valuable brought us to a temporary openness. Not understanding what really happened, simply caused confusion later on.

    I also appreciated, “I want someone behaving in ways that are choices made within his own soul because they align with his own character, ethic, and conscience.” So good. “I’ll go to counseling (quit drinking, pick up after myself, stop yelling at the kids, overspending . . .) if you want me to,” indicates a total lack of internal character. Why doesn’t he recognize the need for these things without making you (me) the witch?

    Well, I’m a slow learner, but I’m gettin’ there! Thanks so much for your encouragement!

    Like

  5. Jane Thorne says:

    What powerful observations…and what a powerful effect this behaviour can have on us. We always hold that hope that things will get better…I don’t feel they will. The PAH choose stay as they are, as it validates who they are and how they behave. Putting loving energy into trying to get them to see, reflect and embrace any kind of change sets up a destructive ‘holding’ circle. Love is not pain, love is peace. Great post. ❤ x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi PJs, I saw one of your comments on another page and then when I googled PA blog, your page popped up. I’m now on the other side of the wall, I made it over. It’s a REALLY tall wall, I hope you one day make it. It took me almost two decades. One concept that I know understand is that he’s not trying to keep you, he’s trying to keep the situation. My husband did this whole up and down thing for 25 years and whenever we’d argue he’d say “you’re such a dumb bitch that you stay”. I may not have been a bitch but I sure was dumb. I never understood or really heard those words until I left. He knew EXACTLY what he was doing and he’s going to have to find someone to date fast who will do the same thing. I hate to say it but because I have a giving heart and a caring spirit (well I did when we met anyway), he knew that I would constantly try to fix things and although he liked and maybe even loved me in the beginning, he couldn’t keep it up because the anger in him just wouldn’t let up. He is a con professional con artist, he has to be to survive. He’s filled with hatred, it’s consumed him over the years. They’re all con artists. He’s also just as codependent. They are so much smarter than we realize and they use us constantly to their needs, I can see it all so much more clearly now that I’m by myself. I have been out for 3 months. I will not pretend in any way that my brain is clear but it is clearer! He played the game so well it was crazy. I was definitely trauma bonded. That term, shutting myself down from him for a year and starting to tell people I know that I am abused is what finally helped me to leave. As weird as it sounds, once I told my secret to people I knew, I was embarrassed to stay. I purposely embarrassed myself so that I would have to leave. I told his whole family and a few friends. I chose not to tell mine, I still have to live with them. I pray that you all find your way there one day. The first month after leaving is hell on earth (I would imagine that’s what it feels like to get over cocaine or meth but if a cocaine addict can do it, so can I) but in month three I’m comfortably numb to being away from him and living is starting to happen again. I just started my own blog about leaving. I have only posted 3 posts for now but I’m going to blog how I felt and how I feel each month going forward. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline really saved me and got me through, I still call them every time I think about calling him. If you get the right person, they’re so helpful, if you get the wrong person (I think they’re volunteers so not everyone is a great conversationalist), you call again until you get the right one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      There is Light, thank you so much for taking the time and sharing so much from the heart. It’s people like you that make this such a valuable place for so many.

      I’m coming out getting knocked back by a bad virus, but I’ll be blogging again soon, and look forward to reading more from you!

      Like

      • I hope you feel better. We’re all in the same rocky boat. It’s a scary place to be. I have days where I desperately wish I could have the happy marriage so many seem to have and days where I’m okay. It’s a very hard road we’re all on and getting out takes years and for some never comes. It’s nice to get to talk it out who understands

        Like

      • I hope you feel better. We’re all in the same rocky boat. It’s a scary place to be. I have days where I desperately wish I could have the happy marriage so many seem to have and days where I’m okay. It’s a very hard road we’re all on and getting out takes years and for some never comes. It’s nice to get to talk it out with others who understand Knowledge is power plus sometimes its just a nice mental break to talk.

        Like

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