Have you ever been tricked into thinking you’re in love? To be made to feel wonderful, and then made to feel like a piece of trash?
It is not just you. I recently met a few North Goan residents who opened up to me about their past romantic relationships that didn’t work out. They couldn’t understand how everything had been going so well until their ex abruptly ended their relationship.
Love bombing, gaining trust and dependency, criticism, gaslighting, submission, low self-esteem and emotional addiction were among the few things they all had in common.
One can observe this pattern in trauma bonding. In doing so, the person grows close to the one hurting them. It begins with empathy and a shared upbringing and childhood traumatic experiences.
“She used to make me feel so special, so loved. Calling all the time, sending me love notes, motivation notes. I was floored as I never got this royal love treatment before. But then, the criticism started, small things such as how my friends talk to me, how my mother controls my finances. I honestly thought she loved me and is trying to help me. I realised late that she wanted me to cut all connections, so that I can only be with her,” said Daryl, a 50-year-old resident of Dona Paula, recalling his young adult relationship with an abusive woman.
“I did that, but she had total disregard to anything that I said. The more I questioned her, the more erratic her behaviour became. I had such low self-esteem, if it weren’t for my current partner, who was the only friend who didn’t give up on me, I don’t think I would have ever realised that I was in a bad relationship,” said Daryl.
People who already struggle with low self-esteem, attachment insecurity, childhood experiences of abusive relationships and a lack of moral or social support are frequently the ones who fall victim to this type of relationship-trauma bonding.
Because of this, the desire to return to the abuser despite the abusive relationship frequently gives the impression that the victim is obsessive and a stalker.
“I felt that I was completely obsessed with my ex. I never want to relive that obsessed love relationship ever again. Initially, he loved me so much, calling all the time, checking on me, asking details of every hour of my day. I was never an attention seeker, but he made me one. I got so used to it that I forgot myself without his attention,” shared Jyoti, a 33-year-old banking executive from Panjim.
“I am glad he dumped me; else I would have never gotten over him. I had to take therapy after the break up, I am glad I got the help that I needed at that time,” adds Jyoti.
Sushil, a 40-year-old resident of Parra, who recently relocated to Goa after escaping from a bad relationship in Mumbai shared, “I always used to feel sympathy for her. The way her life has been, I thought I could help her and tried to. No matter what I did, it was not enough. She criticized me, abused me, hit me and then cried and apologised.”
“It went on for years, I lost my friends as I gave all my time to her. I supported her financially, too. I was drained from all sides. My parents’ intervention, helped me come out of the abuse. I was able to understand the manipulative tactics she had used to get me attached and use me in the relationship,” Sushil adds.
Realising that you are in a trauma bond is the only way to break free from it. After that, total separation from the abuser is required. It’s difficult to break up with someone when their attention has been used as a reward, and their criticism as a form of punishment. It’s common to seek professional assistance, like that of a therapist, in order to help one understand and stop feeling guilty about ending a relationship that seemed like a fairy tale.
The strongest social supports one can have are friends and family; neglecting them or not giving them enough priority will negatively impact any relationship. Reach out to them, have a conversation with them and make sure they receive the necessary support and assistance if you know someone who has become aloof and may have a relationship that mirrors a trauma bond.
Names have been changed, to safeguard privacy.