Trauma bonding

I don’t really know what traumatic bonding is. I read things here and there about sibling traumatic bonds and traumatic bonds to abusers, and it doesn’t quite add up. The descriptions are always too slight.

Nonetheless, I think that one element of my relationship with Natalya—both then and now—is a traumatic bond, and the form it takes for me is a terror for her safety. I was not that concerned with my own safety. Maybe just because I have dissociated some of the terror and I’ll get to learn all about that later, but maybe also because I carry the sense of safety I have because of her with me all the time. I might have carried it with me then, even to my own house, even into situations where she was not physically present and could not do anything to help me. All would be well because Nata would make sure of that.

But I was terrified for her safety, and she was afraid for mine. We have ice cream and playing in puddles and so many kinds of joy, but only when we can see that the other is safe. So much of our relationship was that safety check. Is she safe? How do I know she is safe? Can I keep her safe? I think we both felt that—perhaps, because we could not manage our feelings when the other was not safe. The instinct to protect was overwhelming and unmanageable. It is in a lot of my memories—the most traumatic memories—as this horrible, overwhelming thing, like being caught in a nightmare.

It is there in her death, there in the memory of the forced abortion when Nata was 13, there in the memory of seeing her act with others in pornography. I cannot even begin to describe how it feels except to say if you have children, it’s the way you feel when they are small and one of them happens to dart out in front of a car. Only, in some cases, it’s that feeling of wanting to scoop them up and rush them to safety for hours on end.

The upside for me, I guess, is that those memories all have a resolution. There was always a point of reunion, when I could be with her again and feel that I was keeping her safe even if she wasn’t really safe. Even when she was dying, I held her. I heard her last breath. I could give her some comfort as she died. Every traumatic memory with her has that resolution to it, if I can just hold onto that.

Because I think a part of what has to happen for me now is to change the nature of our relationship so that is not a traumatic one. I think I need to change it so that I have very firmly in my mind the idea that she is safe. I cannot hold her and reassure myself—and this is a part of what is hard for me now—but she is beyond the reach of Yuri or anyone like him. No one can harm her anymore. She is very permanently safe.

5 thoughts on “Trauma bonding

  1. safirefalcon May 9, 2015 / 7:18 am

    Oh my gosh. I don’t know if you’ve mentioned her dying in other posts or not. I have missed it if you did. So this was a shock for me to read. And my heart went out to you at the age you were when she died and for you now.

    So many things about this are sad. I’m so sorry these things happened to you.

    • Ashana M May 9, 2015 / 7:33 am

      I have. Her murder was very brutal and very traumatic, so the details are probably in protected posts to keep unwitting readers from being inundated with potentially triggering horror. Also, I’m mostly trying to get through the day when I write posts now, and I think they aren’t always very clear.

      But thank you so much for reading and caring. I hope you’re well.

      • safirefalcon May 9, 2015 / 7:55 am

        It seems trite to say, I hope you are well too. But I do hope it in any case.

        I was saddened by this and alarmed too…that humans can treat each other in such horrific ways.

        A cyber hug to you (if that’s ok) and I hope you do find closure in whatever way is good for you.

  2. desilef May 9, 2015 / 8:17 pm

    I have also tried to understand this concept of trauma bonding which for me started with trying to get my head around the torture survivor who ended up marrying the torturer. But when I think of her, and soldiers in war zones, and maybe you, it seems that when someone lives through experiences that are unspeakable, seemingly unbelievable, only someone else who has been there can really understand. So much trauma occurs in isolation. Sometimes it’s only the perpetrator who shares the experience and therefore becomes the survivor’s most intimate partner. When people who care about each other are there together, there’s the most profound caring and understanding. Beyond physical safety, maybe there’s an existential sense of safety in feeling truly known by someone you can trust.

    • Ashana M May 9, 2015 / 8:23 pm

      There is. Their understanding makes you feel you exist.

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