Trauma bonding is to blame for the continuation of nearly every single narcissistic relationship on the planet. They are powerful emotional attachments that are formed through a cycle of manipulation, abuse, and intermittent reinforcement. But have you ever wondered what would happen if the roles were reversed and the narcissist was the one trauma bonded? While it is highly unlikely that a narcissist would ever be truly trauma bonded in a relationship, it is not impossible. 

If a narcissist were to develop a relationship with someone who was unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent or put themselves in a position where they were dependent on their partner, their excessive need for narcissistic supply could cause them to appear trauma bonded to the person they had a relationship with.

A trauma bonded narcissist is extremely rare to see. But when we do see it, it is usually between a narcissist and their unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers who never gave them the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they so desperately needed and aging narcissists who keeps a younger partner around for the validation, admiration, and reassurance of onlookers. 

How Could a Narcissist Appear Trauma Bonded to Their Primary Caregivers?

It is believed that narcissism originates from an unhealthy or abusive upbringing with unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers. These types of primary caregivers are unable to mirror their child’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs which means that the child is unable to conceptualize a realistic sense of self. 

When a child doesn’t get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to conceptualize a realistic sense of self, they learn to search for it in their external environment. Regardless of the circumstances, a child prioritizing their external environment over their internal environment leads to an unhealthy cognitive development. However, this behavior is particularly dangerous for children who have narcissistic parents.

Why? 

We spoke about this much more thoroughly in our article How Do Narcissists Treat Their Children but while researching for that particular article it became very clear that narcissists value children who provide them with the most narcissistic supply. 

Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, and reassurance that narcissists are able to extract from others. The most common way a narcissist is able to extract a significant amount of narcissistic supply from their children is by living vicariously through the golden child.

The golden child is the child that the narcissist favors the most and they view them as an extension of themselves. It’s important to note that the role of the golden child is very conditional. 

If the golden child were to lose whatever it was that provided the narcissist with narcissistic supply, like athletic ability or good looks, the narcissist would discard the golden child immediately. 

It is important to understand this transactional relationship because it is possible that a narcissist who grew up as their narcissistic parent’s golden child could appear trauma bonded to them in adulthood. 

How? 

When it comes to narcissists, nothing lasts forever, especially relationships. They are some of the most unpleasable human-beings on the planet. If the narcissistic parent were to discard their golden child, who happens to be a narcissist, the child could get caught in a loop of trying to win over their unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent parent. 

What this means is that the narcissist’s excessive need for admiration would cause them to have an intense craving for the validation, admiration, and reassurance of their narcissistic parent. 

They would lose sight of themselves in pursuit of the narcissistic parent’s attention, and they’d continue to remain “trauma bonded” to the relationship despite the negative effects it has on their well-being. 

This is quite interesting and possibly an indication that narcissists can be trauma bonded because that is the same behavior that is seen in non-narcissistic trauma bonded victims.  

Suggested Reading: Why Do Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction? 

How Could a Narcissist Appear Trauma Bonded to a Younger Partner? 

The aging narcissist is quite the phenomenon because the older a narcissist gets the worse their ability to accumulate narcissistic supply gets. This is because narcissists build their falsified identity out of their own perception of what society values most so that they can accumulate as much narcissistic supply as possible. 

Suggested Reading: Do Narcissists Get Worse As They Get Older

However, their emotional inadequacies make them incapable of looking past society’s superficial exterior so they end up gravitating towards the most superficial, materialistic, and trivial aspects of life when building their falsified identity. 

What this means is that as they get older all of the superficial, materialistic, and trivial techniques that they used to accumulate narcissistic supply and maintain their falsified identity begin to disintegrate because it is harder to stay in shape, their mobility gets worse, they’re less attractive, and so on. 

This makes them extremely vulnerable to narcissistic injuries, perhaps the most vulnerable they’ve been in their entire lives, so they frantically search for new sources of supply to ensure that they keep their negative emotions compatimentaized and suppressed deep within their psyche behind a falsified identity. 

It’s very common, particularly in aging narcissistic men, to seek out a relationship with a much younger man or woman to accumulate the narcissistic supply of others by using their young partner’s appearances. 

It’s quite a peculiar position for a narcissist to put themselves in because while they’re soothing all of their vulnerabilities and insecurities by living vicariously through their young partner, they’re arguably making themselves even more vulnerable to narcissistic injuries. 

The reason being that by keeping a young, more mobile, and more attractive partner around to accumulate narcissistic supply, they’re no longer the center of attention which makes them heavily dependent on their younger partner. This is so strange because narcissists need power and control over their relationship to manage their fear of abandonment and feelings of inadequacies. 

If a narcissist were to put themselves in a situation where they were dependent on their younger partner for narcissistic supply and have the relationship end, they could appear very trauma bonded to their younger partner. 

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Seeing a trauma bonded narcissist is definitely rare but not impossible. It is so important for victims of abuse to learn all of the hidden aspects of the abuse that they’re experiencing, even if they think it doesn’t apply to them. 

When you develop a library of information about abuse a lot of the questions you’re going to have when managing or escaping the abusive environment are going to be answered then reassured when you’re able to find a qualified professional or support group. 

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Hadeed L. (2021) Why Women Stay: Understanding the Trauma Bond Between Victim and Abuser Case Studies Were Written. In: Bissessar A.M., Huggins C. (eds) Gender and Domestic Violence in the Caribbean. Gender, Development and Social Change. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. 

Casassa, Kaitlin, et al. “Trauma Bonding Perspectives From Service Providers and Survivors of Sex Trafficking: A Scoping Review.” Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, Jan. 2021