I know that some of us (not me, btw) are still on the post-Valentine’s Day high but I want to talk about something a little heavier than usual.

Earlier today someone posted something on IG re narcissism and it reminded me of how popular that term has become. I’ve written about it and also did an IG video way back when. I think that the reason the term is so trendy and popular is that we are coming into a new realization of the characteristics of narcissism. We have a name for it now (before, we used to just consider someone selfish or self-centered).

Most of us have had at least one “a ha” moment when thinking of a partner, friend, or even a colleague who might have some of those characteristics. When you think of people with narcissistic tendencies, we can’t help but think of trauma bonds, which is what I want to dive into today.

Of course, I am a coach (and NOT a licensed therapist) but I wanted to provide a little insight on trauma bonds, based on the experiences of my clients, friends, and my own personal experiences. I am not offering mental health advice or insight. I am simply sharing some thoughts that might be helpful for you or anyone that you know who is involved in this type of relationship dynamic.

What are trauma bonds? Trauma bonds can best be described as the proclivity for two opposing personalities (usually a codependent empath and a narcissist) to engage in an unhealthy relationship that usually involves emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse. These two individuals are usually drawn to each other like a moth to a flame.

There is a powerful, intense, and obsessive attraction that is characterized by manipulation, minimization, control, enablement, destruction, loss of self-identity, criticism, dependency, chaos, self-betrayal, and an unpredictable roller coaster of emotions. The empath may often put their partners’ needs ahead of their own and may even stay after repeated abuse.


Why do they occur? Often time, the root of trauma bonds involves the empathetic, codependency partner having a history of experiencing similar emotional abuse. Subconsciously, people who are vulnerable to trauma bonds may be drawn to the familiarity of an unhealthy or toxic past (perhaps they had a parent or another figure with similar narcissistic tendencies).

This is one of the reasons why empaths tend to attract narcissists and vice versa – the duality of trauma bonds. Trauma bonds are often confused with love and difficult to recognize while you’re in the relationship but often friends and family will notice that the relationship is unhealthy.


Why is it important to identify them? It’s important to identify trauma bonds in an effort to mitigate or minimize extensive emotional damage. Breaking the addictive cycle of trauma bonds allows each person the opportunity to recover by flooding themselves with awareness and self-preservation (not to mention therapy, if you’re open to that) so that they can begin to recognize healthy, authentic love. This also means that their children may have better examples of what it means to be in a healthy relationship.


How can we break cycles of trauma bonding? Accepting and recognizing that your partnership is a trauma bond is the essential first step. Educating yourself on concepts like gaslighting, manipulation, love bombing, triangulation, toxicity, etc. The next step involves developing a deep conviction that you want to break the cycle for once and all. This involves a new level of self-love and self-preservation. In my opinion, therapy is an essential tool in leaving (and staying away) from individuals with whom you’re likely to have a trauma bond. And finally, the individual who leaves should be prepared for a strong reconciliation effort from their partner. This could show up as begging, stalking, a burst of anger and rage, threats, and other responses to rejection.

This recovery process doesn’t happen overnight but it is worth it to break the cycle and begin to rekindle a new level of protection, boundaries, and self-advocacy.