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Why You’re Staying In A Hurtful Relationship

Written by: Lisa Sonni, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Lisa Sonni

Being in a bad relationship can be one of the most emotionally draining experiences we can go through. The experience can leave us feeling trapped, afraid, anxious, and stuck. We often blame ourselves for not being able to break free, thinking that we are too weak or too dependent. Maybe you’re wondering if your partner is a narcissist, has other mental health issues, or is just a terrible partner. However, the truth might be that we are caught in a trauma bond.

Unhappy couple after an argument in the living room at home

The psychological phenomenon

If you’ve never heard of a trauma bond, it’s an emotional attachment that develops in a relationship where there is abuse and devaluation mixed with intermittent and sporadic positive reinforcement. The abuser creates a power imbalance, oscillating between moments of pain and comfort, which can be really confusing and disorienting. You kind of see them as both the knife and the Bandaid. I’m going to explore the ins and outs of trauma bonds, their effects, and three steps to breaking free.

Covert abuse tactics

One of the essential things to understand about trauma bonds is that abuse is often covert, you don’t necessarily recognize it as abuse. We might think that our abuser is unaware of their bad behavior, but the truth is that they are – they know. They have cognitive empathy, which means they can understand our thoughts and feelings, but they lack emotional empathy, which means they can't feel or be moved by them. As a result, the abuser manipulates and gaslights us, using tactics to control our behavior and thoughts.

Complex emotions

If you are in a bad relationship, you might be feeling many things, such as guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, mistrust, and confusion. These are common feelings for victims of trauma bonds, and they can make it harder to break free. However, the first step to breaking free is to educate yourself about abuse, tactics, trauma bonds, and cognitive dissonance. Will you feel like you have a PhD in narcissism in this phase? Maybe. You can read books, attend support groups or webinars, or work with a therapist or coach specialized in abuse recovery.


The second step to breaking free is to shift the focus onto yourself. You need to learn what got you here, from a place of curiosity rather than judgment. You need to understand how your past experiences, beliefs, and coping mechanisms might have contributed to your current situation. This will help you become self-aware and empowered, giving you more control over your life. You can also learn practical, actionable skills like emotional regulation, coping skills, and boundary setting, which will help you navigate the challenges of breaking free. Keep reading to learn how to do this.

Building a future

The third and final step to breaking free is to build a future – one that doesn't include your abuser. You have to visualize and plan it before you take action. This can be a scary and challenging step, as it involves facing your fears and taking a leap of faith. But listen, it's essential to build or foster your support system and surround yourself with people who value and respect you. You can also overcome the fears you're feeling by practicing radical self-love, self-care, and self-compassion. Creating a vision of the future you want and working towards it can be a powerful motivator and a source of hope. I used to think self-love wasn’t truly possible, at least not for me. Can you relate?

Trauma bonds are powerful emotional attachments that can keep us stuck in bad relationships. Are you stuck in one? If you’re not sure, here’s a free quiz to find out: Am I Trauma Bonded? Hear me out: they can be broken by learning about abuse, shifting the focus onto ourselves, and building a future that doesn't include our abuser. That love and loyalty we feel for our abuser? It’s misplaced. We deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. As survivors and victims of abuse, we have the power to create a better future for ourselves by healing, learning, and growing. We are not alone, and we can break free. Want a proven path to overcome this? Learn actionable, practical steps to break free in the Trauma Bond Recovery Course, or working with a qualified professional to talk it through.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and visit my website for more info!

Lisa Sonni Brainz Magazine

Lisa Sonni, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lisa Sonni is a survivor of domestic assault and narcissistic abuse, and her first hand experience led her to where she is today ‒ a certified Relationship Coach specializing in abuse education and trauma bond recovery. She helps clients from all walks of life overcome challenges stemming from traumatic partnerships. She is the author of the Trauma Bond Recovery Course, The Trauma Bond Recovery Journal, and Rebuilding After A Trauma Bond: A Self-Love Journal, as well as a popular content creator known as Stronger Than Before across all social media platforms.


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