Why Trauma Bonding Feels Like Love

What feels like love can often be mistaken for love itself. I have seen the heartache in others through my work, and I’ve learned it more since becoming as curious about narcissism as I am.

Trauma bonding is exactly that. It feels like love to those searching for it for a long time.

It feels like love to those who are desperate to fill a void.

It feels like love to those who have been neglected in the past.

Exactly why it feels like love, will break your heart…

Let’s Talk Love: The Empath

Love is a beautiful thing. The feeling of being at one with the person you’re with—the feeling of trust and honesty.

And safety.

For empaths, it’s even more intense. Empaths feel deeply, and they connect intensely too. They give everything they’ve got to whatever relationship they’re in. The love from an empath is genuine.

Empaths want to give everything they have to make their partner happy, because they love to give.

Often drawn to people who need healing, empaths see the good in everybody and won’t hesitate to offer second chances. This compassionate nature can make them vulnerable, though. 

They want to fix and help where they can, and they really feel as though they’re making a difference.

Sometimes, this leads them into dangerous waters, especially if narcissists are swimming in them. 

Empaths are magnets for toxic people.

Narcissists love to take, equally as much as the empath loves to give…

… And they are experts at this.

Empaths?

Perfect targets!

Now: Love and the Narc

When it comes to life in general, we know we know how much all narcissists crave attention and admiration. 

They want it more than you could possibly imagine, and it’s never enough, even if they respond with indifference. They’re charming, persuasive, and can be incredibly seductive. And don’t get me wrong, yes, initially, they seem like the perfect partner. They can shower you with love and all the affection you’ve dreamed of. 

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Many people come to know this as love bombing. 

Love bombings are intoxicating and all-encompassing. You, as the victim, will be swept off your feet, and everything moves fast: dates, seeing each other, meeting families, even saying, ‘I love you.’

It feels like destiny, but it’s actually all a facade. 

Once the narcissist feels secure enough, knowing they’ve baited you to this point, their true colors will start to show.

The thing with the narcissist’s love is – it’s conditional. It manipulates and controls every aspect of the relationship, and it leaves you hanging on. 

But…

They also start to need constant validation. 

They won’t hesitate in belittling you to feel that little bit more superior. 

They gaslight you so you remain as confused as possible. 

Thus begins … the toxic cycle. 

What is Trauma Bonding?

Trauma bonding might not be something you’ve heard of, but it is a psychological phenomenon. 

Think about how these two words shouldn’t even be in the same sentence… That should tell you everything you need to know about how destructive it can be under the guise of love

Love bombing is exclusive to abusive relationships because of how powerful, changeable, toxic and seductive it is, all rolled into one.  It is a very powerful emotional attachment between narcissist and their victim, where the victim is made to feel and be overly connected to them.

It’s more than just love – it’s a real energy force – and not a good one. 

There is an unpredictability behind trauma bonding that serves to push and pull the victim with such force that it becomes a real addiction for both people involved. The victim will become addicted to the highs and lows, just as much as each other. They also become dependent on the abuser for any kind of emotional fulfillment. 

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It makes leaving this type of  relationship incredibly difficult, and why it can take victims so long to find the courage to walk away.

Why Does Trauma Bonding Feel Like Love?

Trauma bonding and love actually share many characteristics, which is what results in these distorted and blurry lines. 

Both involve strong emotional connections, and yes they can both also make you feel euphoric and deeply attached. 

One thing is clear though: trauma bonding is not love. 

It’s just a kind of survival mode.

#1 Those Addictive Highs and Crashing Lows

The narcissist’s behavior creates a rollercoaster of highs and lows. They can be kind, and it feels euphoric. However, when they’re cruel, it feels terrible – even devastating. 

This toxic cycle creates intense emotions that go way up, and crash back down. 

Trouble comes because it mimics the passion and intensity of love, but it isn’t that. 

#2 Affection vs. Punishment

Narcissists use something called intermittent reinforcement. This is a blend of positive reinforcement:

Affection

Praise

Interest 

With negative reinforcement:

Criticism

Ridicule 

Punishment

It’s inconsistent, but it keeps you hooked. You chase the next high, so you happily skip through the lows because you know they’re coming. 

This isn’t love. It’s abuse.

#3 Fear / Anxiety

Fear and anxiety can heighten feelings of attachment. The constant fear of losing the narcissist keeps you on edge. You become hyper-focused on pleasing them. 

This fear creates a sense of urgency and importance, mimicking the intensity of love.

#4 Isolation

Narcissists often isolate their victims so they end up being your only source of love and validation. You become dependent on them, and it feels so intense, but it is another way of controlling you.

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 You can become cut off with family and friends – and it’s really unpleasant. However, the narcissist makes it feel so special – just you and them…

#5 Validation

Narcissists know how to give and withhold validation. If they praise you, it feels like you are flying high on top of the world. If they criticize you, it’s like you’re suddenly worth nothing.

It creates a powerful bond, and it’s hard to break. 

#6 Goold old Cognitive Dissonance

I will give you an example of cognitive dissonance in a nutshell:

You know the narcissist is abusive, but you also believe they love you. 

It’s a crazy sentence, isn’t it? How can somebody so abusive towards you, love you?

This kind of conflict creates so much confusion and discomfort mentally. So what do victims do to make it better? 

They rationalize the behavior of the narcissist.

They convince themselves the narcissist really cares.

It only leads to strengthening that trauma bond.

#7 Is There Hope?…

Yes, you can sometimes see glimpses of the narcissist’s good side, and every narcissist has one, sadly…

This is where you like to remember the early days of your relationship, when everything felt perfect. . You hope they’ll change and be that person again, and it’s the kind of hope that keeps you invested. You believe who they could be if they tried, not who they really are. 

#8 Hormones at Play

You probably know that emotional stress releases chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline. 

Well, positive interactions release dopamine and oxytocin. 

This weird chemical cocktail creates a powerful physical and emotional bond. It’s a physiological push-and-pull; the body can mistake that for real love. 

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