In abusive relationships, the hardest part is leaving. Those not involved in abusive relationships wonder why the victim didn’t get out sooner. Or they are confused why the victim returned to their abusive ex. Leaving an abuser seems easy to those who have never experienced an abusive relationship. When I unblocked my abusive ex for the third time, I knew he wasn’t good, but I couldn’t handle being away from him. I’ll put it this way: leaving an abusive relationship is like breaking up from a healthy relationship, but on steroids. On the one hand, you resent them, but on the other hand, you have so many fond memories of them that letting go of them feels like someone has stabbed you.
What is a trauma bond?
This phenomenon experienced by many other abuse survivors is called a trauma bond. According to Cleveland Clinic, a trauma bond is when you develop an attachment to the abuser. An abusive relationship is a cycle where immediately after an abusive incident occurs, there is a reconciliation period. The abuser apologizes and showers the victim with overwhelming amounts of love. During this period, dopamine, the chemical that makes you feel good, is also released, which strengthens the trauma bond. Once the reconciliation stage is over, the abusive stage occurs again. Thus, the longer the cycle goes on, the harder it is the break away from a trauma bond.
Breaking Free from the Trauma Bond
Breaking away from a trauma bond is one of the hardest things I ever done. It took me five times to finally go no contact. Below are some methods I utilized to cope with leaving the relationship and building myself back up.
Write in a Journal
Journaling is great for your mental health because it allows you to express and process your feelings. Plus, it’s a way to see how much you’ve grown. When I look back at my journal entries from the attempts of leaving my abusive ex, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come. My earlier entries were filled with the emotional turmoil of a confused woman. Then my later entries were about a lady ready to heal and empowered to become better. I can’t recommend journaling enough because it helped me a lot.
Grieve the End of the Relationship
An important part of my healing process was to grieve the end of the relationship. Throughout the relationship, I didn’t know it was emotionally abusive, so I had to grieve the façade I thought it was and accept the reality of the situation.
Don’t Blame Yourself
It’s easy to blame yourself for not seeing the red flags early on, or not leaving sooner, but you were being manipulated like a marionette puppet. You had no control over how they treated you. Blaming yourself will halt the healing process.
Practice Self Care
A body that doesn’t receive adequate sleep or nutrient can’t heal. You are worth taking care of.
A trauma bond is an extreme attachment associated with abusive relationships. Breaking from one feels impossible, but you can do it. Remember to take it one step at a time and focus on your progress.
Tiffany Richard is a disability self-advocate. She lives in Louisiana with her three cats. In her free time she enjoys reading, coloring, and watching musical theater.