7 Stages of A Trauma Bond, Not Love

Ever found yourself trapped in a relationship rollercoaster where there’s more heartache than happiness? But even though it hurts, you just can’t seem to break away? 

You’re not alone. Love is a beautiful emotion, but it can get twisted into something sinister – trauma bonding. Often mistaken for love, trauma bonding is a complex psychological phenomenon that occurs in toxic relationships. But understanding the 7 stages of trauma bonding can be the key to finally breaking free from those destructive cycles.

The Love Bomb Stage 

Picture this: the butterflies, the late-night talks, and shared smiles – it’s like a rom-com. But beware, because sometimes, this story starts with a twist. 

It’s hard to tell the difference between love and a trauma bond at the beginning, because at the start. The intense connection, shared interests, and overwhelming affection, attention, gifts and appreciation can create a strong bond. 

This stage, known as “love bombing,” can be a common manipulation technique. The individual showers their potential partner with love and admiration, but don’t be fooled! It’s only to gain control or influence. It’s not about love but power.

The Devalue Stage

Next comes the devaluing stage. Just when you’re feeling on top of the world, here comes the plunge. The other person suddenly turns cold or harsh. They become less responsive, more impatient, and start criticizing you about every little thing. 

In a trauma bond, there are moments of intense love, kindness, and connection, followed by acts of cruelty, neglect, or downright nastiness. It’s a crazy, unpredictable cycle that’s meant to make you crave the manipulator’s kindness and affection more, keeping you hooked.

The Discard Stage

Aside from emotional withdrawal, toxic people will most likely try to isolate you from the other important people in your life. Suddenly, you start losing touch with friends, spending less time with family, and feeling like the only person left in your support system is them. This is because they want you to rely solely on them for emotional support to deepen the trauma bond. 

Hey, still there? Here’s a gentle reminder to take care of yourself, friends. And if you’re liking the video so far, why not hit that subscribe button and ring the notification bell? That way, you stay in the loop with us as we dive deeper into these important conversations. Your support means the world to us!

The Hoover Stage

Even in toxic relationships, there are moments of reprieve where things seem to be improving. The other person is suddenly all sweet and apologetic, promising they’ve changed and things will be different this time. Sound familiar? The hoover stage is when the abuser tries to “suck” you back into the relationship. It’s a manipulative technique, using false promises and preying on your hopes to keep you trauma bonded.

The Cognitive Dissonance Stage

Ever been in a situation where your heart says one thing, but your brain is yelling, “What are you doing?” 

Perhaps you remember watching one of our videos Toxic Relationship Signs  about toxic relationships. Your heart was pounding as every word resonated with your experiences. 

That’s the classic struggle of trauma bonding; blaming yourself for the problems of the relationship and making excuses for the other person’s inexcusable behavior.  It’s common for victims of trauma bonding to  rationalize their abuser’s behavior and maintain the belief that the love they feel is genuine. But remember, it’s not your fault! Self-blame and cognitive dissonance are the barriers that are keeping you stuck in this cycle.

The Break Free Stage

As the trauma bond deepens, the fear of abandonment intensifies. This fear can be paralyzing, but overcoming it is an important step to breaking free from the grip of a toxic relationship. But there comes a time when you realize that enough is enough. You wake up to the fact that you deserve better and there’s a turning point towards self-love and empowerment.It’s not easy; in fact, it might be the hardest part. Breaking free involves recognizing the abusive patterns, seeking help and support, and having the courage to leave. Acknowledging the hurt and taking the first steps towards change is a strong sign of growth and positive progress. 

The Healing Stage

Much like the calm after the storm, the healing stage of a trauma bond is the time to reclaim your identity, nurture your self-esteem, and rebuild the parts of you that got lost along the way. It’s about realizing that our worth is not tied to someone else’s opinion or treatment of us. Surround yourself with positivity, love, and things that bring you genuine joy. It’s okay to take it slow; each little victory, each good day, they all add up. Healing might feel like a marathon right now, but with time, patience, and a bit of self-love, you’ll find it’s not as impossible as it seems. 

If watching this hit home, remember, you are not alone. Our community is here, ready to listen and support, so share your thoughts below – your story might just be the lifeline someone else needs! And if you found this video insightful, click here to watch: 4 Reasons Why You Can’t Leave a Toxic Relationship

By sharing this video, you’re not only raising awareness but you may also be reaching someone who’s silently struggling. Don’t forget to like and subscribe, too, for more content on mental health and relationships. 

Remember, real love is out there, waiting for you, so stay strong in your healing journey. You’re deserving of happiness, peace, and love. Until next time, take care.


  • Carnes, P. (1997). The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Health Communications.
  • Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford University Press.
  • Firestone, L. (2013). The Fantasy Bond: Structure of Psychological Defenses. Routledge.
  • Freeman, R. (2016). Neurobiology and the ‘Bond’. The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
  • Herman, J. (1992). Trauma and Recovery. Basic Books.
  • Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Viking.
  • Weitzman, S. (2000). Not To People Like Us: Hidden Abuse In Upscale Marriages. Basic Books.

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