It takes two humble people to work at the relationship, not one that’s always blaming the other.
When one person is always blaming and pointing the finger at the other, and the other person tries to do the right thing, there may be a deeper issue that is unfolding that needs to be addressed sooner than later.
I want to talk about something that is a little disturbing about our brains and it’s the way we can respond in certain relationships with certain people. That disturbing element that I keep seeing over and over again is something I mentioned in an earlier episode called traumatic bonding or a trauma bond.
A real quick definition of the trauma bond as I know it is this – When you are in a relationship with someone who mistreats to you, who abuses you, who hurts you, and yet you are still loving and kind toward them and you want to stay with them.
It’s a level of bonding that includes love and abuse, just like this site is titled. That’s exactly why I called this site Love and Abuse, because we can be in a relationship in which we love someone, even though they’re being hurtful to us. I want to say that they’re not always being abusive, but they can be hurtful.
What I’ve noticed with traumatic bonding is that when people get into deeply hurtful relationships, because there was an initial love, intimacy, bonding and connection, that was what was imprinted first. Because it was first, it almost builds a foundation on which we fall back.
When there is a bad moment, or moments in a relationship, we can fall back on that imprinting and feel better knowing that it will get better because this is how the relationship really is. That is our origin. That is our story. That is how we began. Because we began that way, then I know the relationship will go right back to that place, or at least I hope it will.
Traumatic bonding works by repeating a cycle. I’ve hurt you, now I love you. I’ve hurt you, now I love you. We can have a tendency to compare it to the origin, the story where we began. You hurt me, yes. It really hurts and I hate it. I hope you change. Then they love you again and they support you. We can remember the good times; we can remember what it was like when it began. We can think maybe this is the way it’s going to be from this point on. This is why the cycle can continue.
This is why a lot of people stay in abusive, hurtful, toxic relationships. They don’t see the cycle; they only see the origin. They only see the foundational story on which the relationship started, and when there’s a foundational story that’s really strong, it’s hard to let it go. It’s like you want to feel that again. You want to feel that story, those feelings, those emotions, that intimacy that you experienced right in the beginning, but then the bad times happen. Because you know that they’re going to come back around, they’re going to be kind again, they’re going to be supportive again, and they may even apologize, you go right back into that original imprinting.
My point is,if we first grow attached to how someone fulfills what we need, like self-worth, self-esteem, feeling important and loved, feeling secure, or even more material things such as having food and shelter and clothing, then those attachments also are part of our imprinting.
We hear about imprinting regarding children. The events we go through in our childhood create an imprinting process. I’m not an expert on that, so I’m not going to comment too much on it. Imprinting in general, creates a psychological pattern that we take with us. If we get imprinted early on in any relationship with how things will be, then we are sort of falling back on that when things aren’t that way.
This is where the abused mind starts to form. We get exposed to some sort of toxic or bad behavior, and then we fall back on that imprint that we have in us, knowing or hoping it will get better. Then, when things start to turn around and the person starts to show up with a little bit better behavior, then we come right back to reinforcing a belief system that we have, which is very likely what was imprinted on us at the beginning.
This is important in anyrelationship becausewe tend to remember how good it was, and tend to minimize how bad it’s getting, or can get. We might look at a trend line in a business meeting and we see profit and loss. We can see the trend line going to the right and up or to the right and down or to the right and straight across, or even up and down.
The point is, do we look at our relationships in the same way? My number one suggestion is to look at relationships the exact same way as if you were in an emotional board meeting. This is an emotional board meeting with yourself when you can look at that chart on the wall and see the trend line of your relationship. In the beginning, it started rising and going up and eventually maybe it leveled out.
Maybe it went up again, but when did it go down, and did it stay down? Did it go up and down from there?
Overall, when you look at months or years, does the trend line continue to fall? If it continues to fall, then we know the pattern, and we have to stop comparing it to what was so that we understand the pattern. We have to stop having so much faith that it will come back to what was that original story, that origin story that we have, so that we don’t get lost in false hope.
I know this sounds depressing. I know it does. I don’t necessarily mean you just never have hope. Just don’t allow the trend to continue without intervention. It requires intervention. That means you look at the trend and you might notice that every week or every month, your relationship just doesn’t seem to improve. This could be with anyone- romanticpartner, friendship, or family member.
Because the relationship isn’t improving, something is off. We need to address it and to talk about it. We need to explore some deeper truths or harder truths, and we need to bring it out in the open. Let’s not hide this, let’s bring it out in the open.
I should be able to talk to you because you’re my closest friend, you’re my partner, you’re my sister, you’re my brother. I should be able to express these things to you, and we should be able to figure out what’s going on because we both want the same thing. We both want a better relationship.
Or do we? That’s a good question. Do you want a better relationship? When you hear, “Yes, I do. Let’s work on it,” then you have someone that believes you are equals and making it better and improving it. If you hear, “I don’t have a problem with the relationship, you do,” then you have someone that has already made up their mind that they are not part of the problem.
The problem with that is when you have someone that doesn’t see themselves as part of the problem, you no longer have a relationship. I hate to break it to you. If you have one person that says, ‘I’m not the problem, you are. Everything is fine on my side. It’s all you.” then you don’t have a relationship.
That’s not how a relationship is defined. A relationship is defined as two people working at it, and creating something new between them. A relationship isn’t about one person doing all the work while the other person soaks up the sun and watches you do everything. That’s not how a relationship works.
A relationship works when both people are humble enough to look at this thing that you want to create together. They askthemselves, “What am I doing to contribute to improving this relationship?” They also ask themselves, “What am I doing to harm this relationship?” I’m not even talking about, “What am I doing to love my partner/friend/family member more?” I’m not talking about, “How do I help them? What am I doing to hurt them?”
I’m talking about looking at the relationship as if it’s your life and emotional project that you want to complete together, and that you’re both involved. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a business partnerwhodecided not to do any work, and you did all the work. It’s not fun. It’s irritating and it can make you very angry because you both went in on it together, but your business partner is doing nothing and you’re doing everything. You’re doing all the work. Suddenly you feel like this is a very unfair situation because you’re both collecting the profits.
In order for both people to collect the emotional profits in a relationship, you both have to put in the work. That means that you both have to understand that everything you contribute, the good, bad and ugly is both of your responsibilities. Without both of you working at it, the relationship fails.
During your emotional board meetings, you can thinkabout what’s failing. If the finger is still pointing at you and saying you’re the one that’s failing, you’re not in a relationship. This is the new imprinting I want you to have. I want you to remember that when you both aren’t working at it and only one of you thinks there’s a problem and the other one doesn’t, then there’s a problem.
This is like adding a negative in mathematics. When you add 1+1 you get 2, but if you add a +1 and a -1 together, you get 0. The positive number nullifies the negative number and the negative number nullifies the positive number. They both nullify each other even when one person is right and the other person is wrong. When one of you is not working at it, the relationships is a big goose egg.It’s a zero, which means it doesn’t exist. It’s null.
I want you to remember that anytime you’re in a relationship, that it takes two to create it, it takes two to maintain it, it takes two to build it. It continues to take two and this has to be your new imprinting. Don’t let the old origin story of “everything is wonderful and it can be wonderful again,” to be your imprinting when it comes to being in a relationship where it feels very one sided. That one-sidedness could be that everything is your fault, or everything is their fault if you’re the blamer and pointing the finger at everything they do.
You’re either going to work at it and fix it together, orifyou can’t fix itandyou can’t heal the problems, then you need to grow apart. Of course, you can seek therapy together or apart and work on yourselves that way. That’s certainly not off the table.
I’m just talking about when there’s an inequality if one person is being more hurtful, more toxic than the other. It could be that one toxic person is blaming the other person for all the problems. In traumatic bonding, therecould be aperson doing all the blaming, who says it’s the other person’s fault. The other person is trying everything they can to work on the relationshipand that can be very indicative of an emotionally abusive relationship.
You just have to be aware. If it’s very one sided it can be a toxic situation. The idea that it’s always the other person’s fault;it never stops and that trend line continues to go to the right and down. There needs to be a discussion about what happens next.
I mentioned imprinting and about how the good times are imprinted. This often happens, especially with emotionally abusive relationships, where toxic behavior might mean that there’s a lot of love bombing and gift bombing. They give you so much love and gifts and attention, and then that disappears after a while and then they become hurtful. They could become the victim; the martyr and they want your sympathy. Then they become toxic again and abusive, and you keep looking at the victim in them instead of the toxic person in them.
I’m not saying that you only see them that way. I’m just saying not to let that get past you and only see the good when you need to see everything, so that you can discuss it all. If you feel like you can’t discuss it, because every time you do, it always ends up back on your lap, and you believe it, and you do decide that it’s your responsibility and your fault and that you need to fix everything, there’s a good chance you might be traumatically bonded to the person.
The traumatic bond is so strong because after any type of toxic behavior, you’re going to feel low in your self-worth and your self-esteem. You’re going to feel very vulnerable, and you’re going to look for security. You’re going to look for love and you’re going to look for someone just to hold your hand or put their arms around you. Usually that person is the one that is being toxic towards you.
Unfortunately, they can go back and forth and become that person you need, so you look for that love, security and intimacy in the one person that shows up in the opposite way, which creates a confusion in you. It causes you to seek more of it and try harder to please them and do whatever you can to fix anything, because you are trying to see that they really are good inside because you were originally imprinted with that notion.
I know this sounds like sort of a downer. Remember that when you see the trend line going down. You know there are issues and you are discovering all these things about your relationship and everything you read about on this site. You decide to commit to the philosophy that it still takes two, to work at the relationship and to be humble as the couple works at it.
Being humble means there are probably things that you’re doing that you need to work on. That’s all you need to hear. When you hear that and they take action to work on those things, then you’re going forward. If they’re not taking any action, or they can’t even admit that there’s something they need to work on, then you’re not in a relationship in the sense that both of you are willing to work at it 100%.
That doesn’t mean it can’t turn around and it doesn’t mean that you won’t find this somewhere else in some other way. If these criteria apply, then you definitely have something to address. Otherwise, you carry it forward week after week and you never get past the negative feelings that you’re carrying. We don’t want to do that. We want to try to eliminate those negative feelings by working on things together.