If you think about our Western culture, and its ideas about love – I mean really break down these ideas, you can see that our view of love is kind of f****ed up! Seriously.
Think about your favorite movies that involve romance. How many of those romances involve a love that entails a slow burn, a sensible decision made from a place of authentic love. Now, think about how many movies and TV shows (looking at you, The Bachelor) depict love as “fireworks” and “instant spark” and a fast paced whirlwind of a romance involving endless amounts of drama.
No wonder people find themselves in unhealthy, toxic relationships so often! We’ve been conditioned to believe that this is love, real authentic true love.
On top of media influence, there can be connections made in the brain that make finding a stable and healthy partner more difficult (more on this later). I think this is why folks find themselves in patterns when it comes to dating.
Patterns of choosing people who can’t fulfill your emotional needs, or choosing people who cannot fulfill their own needs – leading their partner to step in and “rescue” them. Or, choosing a partner who you just cannot seem to get along with, no matter how hard you try.
There are sparks of passion, fueled by arguments, but you can never really seem to get on the same page about what you want out of life, as a couple. Maybe you’re with someone who is abusive with you, but you want to work through it and help them become a better person.
You want to earn their love, to be the reason that they change. For most, it feels impossible to walk away from the relationship; it feels like, no matter what they do to you, you will love them through it.
If you find that you’re often in these kinds of relationships, it’s possible you could be in a trauma bond.
What is a trauma bond, you ask?
A trauma bond is an all-too-common occurrence that happens to adults who, typically, have been emotionally abused in ways during childhood. When children experience emotional abuse, they change themselves and become whatever the caregiver wanted them to be in order to receive love.
So, this creates the patterning in your brain that abuse/inconsistency/ confusion = love. Emotional abuse tricks people into thinking that that kind of abuse is someone caring for you.
Maybe this is a familiar feeling that you’re used to with your love interest, a feeling that “if I could just change this one thing about myself, then they will stop yelling at me or stop worrying about (controlling) me and really really love me”.
Now, when you remove blinders in life and start to bring awareness to these patterns, there can be a tremendous amount of shame for the way that you’ve lived your life until this point.
Let us reduce some of that shame and allow space for compassion and kindness for our younger selves. As a kid, we develop survival strategies in order to get our needs met and to feel loved and connected with caregivers – we literally would do whatever it took.
There is no shame in this; connection is an innate human desire. And this strategy probably worked for you for quite some time! But now, as an adult, it probably isn’t doing anything but stressing you the f*** out.
Maybe you’re at the point where you’re ready to let go of some of these strategies and let other parts, more healthy adult parts, to step forward and drive your actions.
If you find that you’re in this space, know that there is help out there. Search for support groups, find a therapist, or talk with someone in your life who you trust. The most painful part of healing from trauma bonds is feeling that you’re alone and you have to carry this all by yourself.
So, what does a healthy relationship look and feel like? I’ll be honest, the words you are about to read may sound really dull to you….and that’s okay.
It’s certainly the opposite of that mainstream media likes to depict love as.
But, here goes. Love is ultimately rooted in authenticity and a love for self, first and foremost. Real love is learning that you don’t have to sacrifice yourself in order to be loved. And this can happen when you – first and foremost – do your own healing; doing this means that you set healthy boundaries and decide what behaviors you will and will not accept.
By slowing things down and being thoughtful, you allow space for real connection. You also allow space for yourself to be vulnerable and real, and to build trust and to find a love that helps you to feel loved and connected in a healthy, sustainable way.
If you’re interested in my free Mindful Dating Journaling Series, please reach out – I’m so happy to share this free resource with anyone who wants it! Just send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it on over to ya