When it comes to gauging our emotional and physical health, our relationships are front and center. And while we thrive when we have close long-term relationships and mutually supportive friendships, many of us struggle to form those healthy attachments. This is especially true for those who’ve experienced childhood abuse and neglect.
Trauma bonds are emotionally abusive relationships that develop out of a repeated cycle of abuse, devaluation and positive reinforcement that begins with a shower of affection and assurances of love. In the beginning, the abuser often overwhelms with constant communication, excessive compliments, and promises of affection and commitment. It’s known as “love bombing”—and it makes the relationship difficult to walk away from. A hallmark of trauma bonding is the abuser’s intentional manipulation of alternating emotional abuse with kindness and intimacy.
In a nutshell, exploitive relationships create trauma bonds—and social media habits often hurt more than help. The highs and lows we get from digital interactions can reinforce the highs and lows experienced in trauma bonds, creating a vicious cycle. Typically the only way to break the cycle is to cease all forms of communication with the abuser. No contact is the goal.
If your new romantic partner seems too good to be true, trust your intuition. Gain control of the relationship by slowing down the pace of digital interactions and real-life interactions. Here are some tips to help you heal:
1. Acknowledge the trauma bond relationship. Having the ability to identify and label negative relationships and experiences is crucial for healing and learning from the past. Reflect on how you felt and use that knowledge for your next relationship.
2. Figure out what drew you into this dynamic. With help from a mental health professional or a trusted friend or family member, work on rebuilding your self-esteem as you identify the underlying issues that fostered the trauma bond relationship. Chances are your past relationships had similar characteristics. Determine what you’re willing to accept in your next relationship and how to set healthy boundaries.
3. Take a break from all social media and other forms of digital communication. Trauma bonds need emotional availability,
interactions and openness to survive and thrive. Take control of a relationship that feels destructive, either by slowing down the pace of your interactions or by shutting down all contact. A digital detox can take weeks or months, so don’t get discouraged. Work on your emotional healing and recovery so you can enjoy healthy and supportive reciprocal relationships in the future.