Toxic Relationships and How to Break the Trauma Bond

toxic relationship signs - Couples therapy in michigan

Toxic relationships are best characterized by a rollercoaster of emotions. Moments of euphoria and contentment may be frequently followed by periods of manipulation and abuse. This often creates a chemical connection, known as a ‘trauma bond.’ In fact, those who are experiencing trauma bonds may find themselves compelled to stay in a relationship simply because their nervous system has wired itself to accept the inconsistency as ‘normal.’

couple arguing5 Signs That You Are In a Toxic Relationship

Identifying a toxic relationship in your own life can be difficult, as it can be challenging to recognize abusive behavioral patterns with someone you love. If you wonder if you or someone else in your life might be affected, consider these five signs that may be indicative of a toxic relationship:

  1. Does the relationship tend to conform to a pattern in which there are periods of bliss, followed by subsequent abuse?
    Toxic relationships are often described as turbulent, as they can turn on a dime. You might be receiving a lot of affection and happiness one moment, but the next, a switch has flipped, and you are made to feel small.
  2. Do you experience heightened conflicts that recur regularly and never reach a resolution?
    Most individuals in a toxic relationship will have a conflict that resurfaces periodically. You may feel like a broken record, as the conflict never seems to go away. You might experience frustration, anger, sadness, and discouragement – all of which point to an unhealthy relationship.
  3. Do you find yourself providing justification for their hurtful actions?
    Creating excuses for your partner’s negative behavior is a clear sign that you are in a toxic relationship. While you may acknowledge the wrongdoing, you continue to rationalize their behaviors. This cultivates a dismissive atmosphere in which your emotions are invalidated.
  4. Are you so afraid of losing them that you feel apprehensive in the relationship?
    If you notice that you feel anxious, as though you are walking on eggshells throughout the majority of your relationship, ask yourself: Is it out of fear of losing them? The formation of trauma bonds can explain this tendency intrinsic desire to tiptoe around your emotions, in an effort to avoid triggering conflict.
  5. Do you feel trapped or obligated to stay tied to the relationship?
    Trauma bonds create a chemical imbalance at the simplest level of human life, allowing it to affect behaviors accordingly. Despite the perceived awareness of the abuse, you might still find yourself missing them. This is a normal experience phenomenon in a toxic relationship and may help pinpoint the reason you feel so powerfully drawn to them, no matter how much pain it causes may be inflicting.

If any of these scenarios resonate with you, you may be experiencing a toxic relationship or trauma bond, neither of which is your fault. However, it is important that you take the necessary steps to break the cycle in order to access a healthy way of life.

How to Break the Trauma Bond

  • Be aware of your emotions.
    Remain consciously aware of your nervous system’s response to these negative behaviors and be vigilant in your reaction. Start a journal. Talk to a therapist. Allow yourself to notice and feel those emotions.
  • Try to view your relationship objectively.
    Consider the shortcomings within the relationship and how it has affected you. You might be inclined to think back on the “good times,” but if you feel the toxic cycle drawing you back, try simplifying the circumstance and viewing the relationship realistically.
  • Stand your ground.
    It can be difficult to interrupt these relationship cycles and reach a permanent end, but keep your eyes set on what you deserve in your relationships: love, consistency, and security.
  • Surround yourself with healthy relationships.
    There is so much value in spending time with those that you love. Surrounding yourself with individuals that foster healthy relationships can help you feel supported and loved while providing a safe environment to heal.
  • Designate time to heal.
    Ending a relationship has physical, emotional, and mental implications. It is normal to grieve the loss of a relationship. Prioritize yourself, take time to process how you feel, and allow yourself time to recover. Remember the importance of self-care. Place emphasis on maintaining healthy eating habits, sleep hygiene, and hydration. Utilize positive self-talk by reminding yourself ‘I am loved, I am worthy, and I am firm in my intentions.
  • Try new things.
    Invest in yourself by trying new things. Explore a new passion, begin an adventure, or nurture your mind. This challenge can facilitate the healing process and help you establish a healthy relationship with yourself.

Finally, trauma therapy is incredibly effective in aiding with early recognition and intervention in toxic relationships. If you find yourself in a toxic relationship, please give us a call at New Perspective Counseling. We would be honored to support you as you navigate your relationships while prioritizing the healing process associated with breaking trauma bonds. 

New Perspective Counseling is a group practice dedicated to emotional wellness and healing. Our caring therapists provide psychotherapy, individual, marriage, and family counseling in our Highland, Michigan office. We are located conveniently near Milford, White Lake, Commerce Township, Holly, Hartland, and Brighton, Michigan.