trauma bonding

The comment quoted below was left on “The List” page of my blog.

I find this comment to be overwhelmingly powerful.

“Never underestimate the power of trauma bonding, or what happens when covert behaviors reinforce over and over and over that you are not quite enough to be loved, or have committed some wrong that results in your spouse withholding affection and intimacy. To have someone say they love you, at times behave lovingly, but ultimately live with you as though you’re just a roommate is a crazymaking kind of dissonance.

“Trauma bonding (Stockholm Syndrome) is almost inexplicable to those outside of it, but quite powerfully real. The person who tears you down offers their hand to build you up while their other hand prepares to put you in emotional jeopardy again.

“Covert abuse disguised with a passive mask is a terrible chipping away and erosion of the human heart and spirit. While any person at times is capable of behaving in a passive aggressive way, and some people may exhibit it more strongly as a character trait, to experience a truly passive aggressive person is extremely difficult to explain to anyone who has not. People understand overt abuse, overt neglect, and overt disrespect. The abuse from a passive aggressive person is like having carbon monoxide in the room. You can’t see it or smell it, but it’s toxic nevertheless.

“A person who has been the victim of physical starvation is not expected to run a marathon, but people don’t understand that a victim who has been conditioned over time to endure starvation of the heart and spirit may have difficulty leaving a toxic relationship.”

Thank you to mourninglight, whoever you are, for sharing this with me, with us.

This entry was posted in covert abuse, emotional abuse, marriage, passive aggressive, passive aggressive behavior, relationships and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to trauma bonding

  1. Tish says:

    Amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Tish says:

    “Passive-aggressive behavior can take on many forms. Some passive-aggressives exhibit more pronounced symptoms than others. Keeping a passive-aggressive person happy is not necessarily easy to do and may require a fair amount of patience on the part of others. Still with a positive attitude and the knowledge that passive-aggressiveness is a mental disorder, you can keep the passive-aggressive person in your life happy..”–

    I read this and I think my head just imploded. Now it’s OUR responsibiity to keep them happy? Because, of course, we’ve NEVER thought about trying to make them happy /sarcasm.

    I’d like to know other’s thoughts?

    • My thought? Can you say “codependent”???? Yes, that’s what we do – we tip-toe around our lives, hide our hurts, do whatever it takes to make the passive aggressive person happy. We destroy ourselves in a fruitless quest. And when we fail, we blame ourselves. Seriously! They are little boys (or little girls) who never grew up and learned how to be responsible, mature, giving adults. We, in our insecurities, think we have to look after them and make everything ok for them, regardless of what it does to us. Maybe we need to look after ourselves instead, and make sure everything is okay for us.

      • Tish says:

        Agreed!!! 100%

        Had I read this 5 years ago I’d say “ok, I just need to try harder.” Now I read it and I cringe. I wonder if a PA wrote it?

        Reminds me of relationship advice for women given to them by a man who’s a serial cheater.

        Hope your weekend is going well.

      • Judi says:

        I realize I take better care of people around me than i do myself….yet I can’t seem to change!

    • mourninglight says:

      Regarding keeping a p.a. partner happy, here is my seventy cents (two cents for each year spent living with p.a.) and what I told my spouse: You may not understand what subterranean or hardwired compulsions are driving you to do something, but you are fully conscious when doing or saying something (or not doing or saying). Something didn’t take over your mind and body like a blackout during your words or behavior that HURT someone. So even if your words/behavior (or lack of them) were reflexive, innate, or unconsciously hardwired in the moment, you were also fully conscious and could SEE the results of the hurt. You made another CHOICE to either address the hurt (aka ownership and amends) or excuse it or ignore it.

      The most simplified explanation is that when he says or does something hurtful, or hurts me by withholding relationship and intimacy, my being hurt makes my p.a. spouse angry and resentful. It’s as though he’s saying: ‘I find it offensive when you were offended by my offending you.’ Try keeping this happy, and you’ll quickly find the crazy in you.

      Even during windows of ownership, it’s a quick flip for the p.a. to feel victimized for some reason. If you try to address their reason (e.g. he tells me that keeping papers on the end of the table bother him, so I remove my papers and books and never put them there again), another reason for resentment will surface, like the never ending game of whack-a-mole. Typically, I’m not told about the resentments until if and when I try to address a hurtful behavior of his towards me. Then suddenly, a barrage of accusations are flung my way, like a machine gun shooting monkey poop. When I was younger, this used to demolish me, and I would once again try to pretzel myself into being a woman he’d find deserving of his intimate love and affection.


      Now, after all these years, I’m learning to process the painful reality of a lack of love. Accept. Breathe. Examine realistically what my choices are, and what is not my business. To be fair, he has acknowledged much and says he wants to learn to love me. Some days, I think I see him trying to do that, but the sound of one familiar sigh of self-pity when he’s doing something ‘caring’ will unnerve me instantly. I also think he has no idea how wearying to the soul it is to know your life partner has to learn to love you, has to work to love you. His ownership, in the immortal words of Pinky, ‘comes and goes, comes and goes.’ There is no clean peace or gratitude for me yet in his efforts, because I know they may be used as grounds for resentment. At times, this feels unbearably sad.

      If I had to choose one word to characterize living with a p.a. partner, it would be resentment. It’s draining to live with someone who resents you. I would enjoy the acts of service given by a charming, funny, hardworking partner so much more if I wasn’t quietly waiting for the resentment shoe to drop and to know that at some point, those acts of ‘caring’ would be fodder for resenting me for not appreciating him, and being the secret grounds of feeling justified for withholding love and relationship.. This shoe, of course, predictably drops when he behaves in a covertly aggressive way that’s coated with the teflon of selective memory or selective awareness. You can’t hold someone responsible for something they didn’t remember, or say they were never told, or that they just didn’t realize or know, right?

      • rougedmount says:

        ~jesus~”This shoe, of course, predictably drops when he behaves in a covertly aggressive way that’s coated with the teflon of selective memory or selective awareness.”
        my married life summed up in one sentence..

  3. Jwhowhat says:

    Wow. So well-written. Lots to think about there….thanks

  4. mixedemotions says:

    cripes!! that’s exactly how I feel – the resentfulness, the crazy making, the instant unerving and the certainty that the shoe will drop… his “sorry i didn’t mean it” don’t mean f-all anymore, the crying, the pleading, the “I’m trying – can’t you see” don’t mean anything for me anymore either. I wish I could move on. One day I will, that I’m certain of, the same certainty that I have now about that damn shoe dropping. So glad I found this blog and of all you, you are all the only ones keeping me going. Thanks!!! xo

  5. Dallasfan1014 says:

    I am really glad that I have found this blog. Not because misery loves company, but because those of us who are married to PA men just need to know we’re not alone. And, even those of us with understanding friends who “get” what we go through only want to hear so much about our plight. But here… here I feel like there can never be too much discussion about what we go through. Thank you, WritingAboutPassiveAggression, for being willing to write about it and live it out loud. It’s what’s going to keep you sane.

    I too was struck by the trauma bonding comment. Mourninglight, you really have summed it up nicely for the rest of us. I’ll continue to read and comment and as many of the posts that I’ve read so far resonate with me so incredibly. I’ve been married to my PA husband fifteen years this month.

    • Passive aggressive behavior really is hard to explain to someone who’s not aware of what it really is! It has been so helpful to me learn that I am not crazy!! Sometimes I still do feel crazy, though!
      I’m glad my blog is helpful to you! It’s therapeutic for me, but I am also very glad that it helps others, too! Please do feel free to comment as much as you like!!! :}

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