The couple drove back from a long day of hiking. She mentioned a work trip coming up that she’d be leaving for. It was the first time they would be away from each other since they began dating 3 months ago. Things were going so well. But he was SHOCKED she would spring this on him.
He drilled her with questions: Who was going to be there? Why do you have to go? The questions quickly became accusations, which turned into verbal attacks and name-calling. She was in shock! Who was this?!
She argued back, stood up for herself, obviously. In her mind, as soon as the drive was over, so was the relationship.
He continued to get louder. Blood rushed to his face. He was sweating, yelling, spitting. His hands turned to fists as he pounded the steering wheel. Then, she saw the speedometer… 22.214.171.124.90! She was terrified! She couldn’t run. She was trapped. She realized the fighting was escalating the danger their lives were in. He had lost all emotional control.
Think! Think! She knew freezing up into silence would not save them. So she retracted: “You’re so right, I’m sorry. I won’t go! That’s not fair to you. It’s my fault.” She yelled over his beratement, and she watched the speedometer through her tears. 90.85.75…
His breathing slowed. He stopped pounding the steering wheel. His color slowly returned to normal.
She did it! She saved them, she fixed it.
She had just learned the 4th coping mechanism in a trauma bond: Fawn – appease in a traumatic moment to stop the abuse.
When the ignition turned off she thought about bolting. But she glanced over and saw his face was stoic. He reached out to hold her hand, she flinched. Pain flooded his face as tears welled up in his eyes. Knowing his past, she felt sorry for him. As he begged for her forgiveness she began self-negotiating. “Should I run, or forgive him?”
She let him hug her. Relief washed over them. The fear, rage, and tension from just seconds before was replaced with trust, safety, and love. Weirdly enough, she felt closer to him.
That was the beginning of the drip. The addiction to the end of each episode would only grow stronger, even as the episodes continued to escalate.
How could she stay? It’s a NO brainer: RUN, woman!
But many of you know. You may not see it, but you’ve felt it. Maybe you are feeling it. Maybe it’s on a milder level. Maybe it’s becoming more impossible to not leave.
I have a gold ribbon I’m staring at outside on my tree as I write this. It’s there to remind me to pray for one of my best friend’s children who is feeling the loss of her mother. This friend was shot by her husband nearly 4 years ago. We saw lots of red flags, but we had no idea the gravity of the situation. I’ve also stared at this ribbon during a season of my life, knowing how stupid I was for walking this line. The shame was so deep because of what I was allowing to happen. I let addiction win.
I don’t know where your trauma bond is or how deep it goes…but I do know without help or without understanding what’s happening in your brain and not your heart….well, you’ll never be able to leave it. And if you do leave it…there has to be measures taken to not relapse. The waiting and anticipation of that next text, or the patterned reconciliation you know is coming a month from now is the EXACT reward and motivation hormone – dopamine – flooding the pathway. You have to identify the trauma bond, and learn what happens to your brain and how to change it.
If you’ve never been in a trauma bond but are seeing red flags…don’t ignore them. You are worthy. Don’t accept fleeting feelings of happiness and the addiction of oxytocin hits when you know where the road you’re on leads. When you see the first episode of anger, rage, manipulation or lies…understand what’s happening and leave. The longer you stay, the harder it is to walk away.
Research says that breaking away from a trauma bond is more difficult than cutting off a heroin addiction.
Over the last few weeks, it’s been unreal how many people have connected with this series and expressed their struggles in leaving a toxic relationship behind for good. People on the outside looking-in are absolutely clueless. They’re floored that their friend or family member is yo-yoing back and forth with an ex. Don’t think that the victim in this situation isn’t hugely embarrassed, or that they don’t understand how stupid they are.
The guilt and shame they feel will cause them to avoid. They will hide and lie and work even harder to avoid this public humiliation. Just like an addict does.
This bond can absolutely be reversed situations. Particularly with women who have experienced a lifetime of trauma: They have learned how to manipulate from being manipulated. They can pray on a man’s nature to save, and manipulate, coerce, damsel-in-distress-it to death and seduce their partner to do exactly what they need to miss the exit on their roller coaster.
I feel fortunate that I’m a researcher, as it helped get me out of my own situation. When I don’t understand something, I dive into rabbit hole after rabbit hole to find the answer.
This pursuit of knowledge was like oxygen to me. I learned how to save myself. I’ve also learned that most people aren’t wired like me. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve sent the very resources I’ve used to break away, and they wouldn’t even look at them. They’ve settled into victimhood and have lost the will to fight. To them, the good is too good and the bad is worth the good. For most, without intentional help, therapy, and a ton of ongoing work, they will never be able to escape.
Weaning off those chemicals and patterns is going to be a withdrawal! For a long time after, healthy will be dull! But with hope, things will heal. Time will heal. And the best is yet to come.
Don’t settle wasting away your life in an unhealthy and high risk relationship.
Statistically speaking, we have no idea the nightmares people live behind closed doors and perfectly-crafted social media lives. If you are already bound to that person in marriage, I’d advise you to be safe but take every measure of reconciliation. If you aren’t married, don’t settle.
Stay tuned as next week I’ll share with you the final piece to this series: How to begin the exit-process. And if you’re struggling to escape and you feel guilt, this information is freeing. Your brain is conditioned and wired to want to stay…and recognizing that THAT is where your fight begins makes a world of difference.
A relationship is only as strong as the foundation it’s built on.
Last week I brought up the wall – how sometimes the cracks in a relationship don’t show up right away. Let’s get real this week. It’s because we don’t want them to!
Awww, finally…someone to feel that void! You convince yourself the end destination will be fine. It will work this time. And you run the same pattern as you always have before.
But this is how toxic foundations are laid.
How do we get here!?
In our cultural dating world today we often skip over courtship. We’ve been swiping too long! We have seen way to many horrific matches that by the time someone comes along who is halfway attractive and makes you want to stay on a date longer than 10 minutes (and forget that last relationship…last week/month/ and for some of y’all – yesterday)
Green light!! Finally!
The exploration of alignment, beliefs, life purpose, compatibility, where you want to grow…AKA the foundation…who cares?!
I’m so sick of dating and all the NOs. It’s awful out there!
I will make this my YES because I’m no failure at relationships!
So we push off the digging and the potential “non-alignment” questions that would cause us to wake up and RUN….because we’re just ready!
We’re ready for the feels! Skip the friendship outside the “feelings”…the friendship that matters after the “I do’s.” The friendship that you rely on 3, 10, 20 yrs down the line…’til death do us part. There’s time for that later! Where we goin’ Friday!?
Our society is so programmed to default to everyday romance; the fairy tale, Titanic, the drunk-in-love relationships. The happily ever after formed in the first month! The love at first sight! The (let’s be honest) chemical attachments that unites two humans with a connectivity bond. It’s chemistry 101, y’all!
No one actually wants to GUARD their hearts or carefully, with eyes wide open, allow friendship, authenticity, and alignment to form over time.
The “feelings” aren’t entering carefully or slowly, and no deep trust is built. There is no progression of emotional and intellectual intimacy being laid as a firm foundation before all the other things.
That’s too boring! Surely the Creator of love and unity and sex (yep, I said that) misunderstood his creation when he wrote, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Prov 4:23
We are a culture of immediate gratification. The “all-in” risk-takers.
And we are a bunch of broken, half-hearted individuals walking around with chains and baggage in a desperate search for another human. Another human to heal the void created by that last partner. We’re looking to dump it and all our toxic behaviors and patterns on someone new.
And some of us were once healthy. And sometimes, healthy gets lonely. We’re tired of our high standards and never feeling connected. So we make one compromise.
We agreed to do it the world’s way.
We got sucked into the funnel.
We become what’s called a co-dependent.
As the horrific toxicity begins to unfold (I’ll share the horrific toxicity I put up with next week)…we’d rather stay and save them than save ourselves. We’re no failure. We can make this work. I’ll make it work.
And perfectly healthy people, if not on guard, can get taken down. The climb out will be some of the hardest work you’ll ever have to do. And most won’t choose to do it. They will try and leave over and over and over again…and the years of their youth and life will pass them by.
I’m here with this because I got out. And I have hope made-new.
My creator speaks over me…
“Forget the former things. Do not dwell in the past. See I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19
You see, He has the power to redeem. But you can not receive His new blessing while you have a chokehold grip on the chains holding you down.