A common question that gets asked by those who’ve experienced a trauma-bonded relationship is, “Can you love someone you’re trauma-bonded to?”

Yes, you can genuinely feel love for someone your trauma bonded to. However, the love you feel is mostly likely rooted in fear, manipulation, dependence, and the intense highs and lows that can come from the abusive situation you’re in.

This article will guide you through six reasons you feel like you love someone you’re trauma bonded to so you can better understand the thoughts, feelings, and emotions you have invested into this person in your life.

1.) You’re Experiencing Intermittent Reinforcement

The first reason you might love someone you’re trauma-bonded to is intermittent reinforcement, which is the delivery of a reward at irregular intervals. 

In trauma bonding, this often manifests as unpredictable cycles of abuse combined with moments of affection and kindness. 

Because these positive moments are inconsistent and unexpected, they can feel disproportionately intense and valuable.

A woman experiencing intermittent reinforcement.

This unpredictability often results in a heightened focus on the rare positive moments, leading to intense feelings of attachment or perceived love. 

In other words, the emotional roller coaster created by this unpredictable pattern can be mistaken for a deep, passionate connection when, in reality, it’s a cycle of uncertainty and heightened reactions to intermittent reinforcement.

Suggested Reading: 3 Reasons Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction

2.) You Have Shared Experiences with Them

The second reason you might love someone you’re trauma-bonded to is because you have shared experiences with them.

Facing challenges or navigating intense situations together can create a powerful bond between two people. 

In trauma bonding, even if some of these challenging situations were caused by the person you’re bonded to, enduring them together can still foster a deep sense of connection.

A woman telling her therapist she can't leave the narcissist because they've been through so much together.

There might be a feeling that since you’ve weathered so much together, a deep, underlying love is holding you two together, even if the dynamics are predominantly unhealthy. 

This intertwining of shared adversities and moments of solidarity can blur the lines, making it hard to distinguish genuine love from trauma-induced attachment.

3.) Your Empathy Draws You Closer to Them

The third reason you could love someone you are trauma-bonded to is your empathy.

Empathy, our innate ability to understand and resonate with the feelings of others, can complicate our perceptions in trauma-bonded relationships. 

If the person you’re bonded to has moments of vulnerability or shares personal stories of past pain and hardships, it can evoke strong feelings of compassion and care, even if they are the source of your trauma. 

A narcissist victimizing herself.

This deep-seated empathy might lead you to overlook or rationalize their harmful actions, focusing instead on their pain and challenges. 

As a result, the intense desire to support, comfort, or “rescue” them might be misinterpreted as a sign of deep love when, in truth, it’s a reflection of empathy in the face of their vulnerabilities.

4.) You Depend on Them for Something

The fourth reason you could love someone you’re trauma bonded to is that you depend on them for something.

In many trauma-bonded relationships, a dynamic emerges where the individual feels they can’t function or thrive without the other person, even if that person is the cause of their pain. 

Over time, repeated messages, behaviors, or implied sentiments might convince you that you’re incapable, unworthy, or lacking without them.

A woman feeling like she can't function without the abuser.

This reliance on another for validation, emotional support, or even basic needs can feel so intense that it’s mistaken for deep love. 

The perceived inability to be whole or happy without them strengthens the trauma bond, making it feel like an unbreakable connection rooted in love when it’s primarily about reliance and need.

Suggested Reading: 5 of the Most Common Causes of Trauma Bonding

5.) You Seek Validation from Them

The fifth reason you could feel like you love someone you’re trauma bonded to is that you seek validation from them.

Human beings have an inherent need for validation and acknowledgment. 

In trauma-bonded situations, there’s often an intense desire to win the affection or approval of the person causing the trauma. 

If you’ve been consistently belittled, criticized, or made to feel inadequate, the rare moments of validation from that person can feel overwhelmingly significant. 

A narcissist love bombing someone.

This chase for their acknowledgment can mimic the joy and connection associated with love. 

The more elusive the validation, the more valuable and love-like it can feel when it does come, even if it’s sporadic.

6.) You’re Experiencing Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the sixth reason you might love someone you’re trauma-bonded to.

Cognitive dissonance happens when you hold two conflicting thoughts in your mind at the same time — like loving both hamburgers and cows. 

In the context of trauma bonding, when you care about someone who’s also causing you pain, there’s an internal conflict. 

To cope, the brain may amplify or focus on the positive aspects of the relationship to reconcile this conflict, leading to a skewed perception of the bond’s nature.

A man experiencing cognitive dissonance.

The emphasis on positive moments or traits, even if they are few, creates an illusion of a deeper and more loving relationship than what exists in reality. 

This internal narrative shift, driven by the need for emotional consistency, can make the bond feel more like genuine love than a product of trauma.

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

It is possible to feel love for someone you’re trauma bonded to genuinely.

However, you must acknowledge the difference between genuine love based on mutual respect, care, and understanding and the feelings developed due to the trauma bond. 

Trauma bonds can mimic genuine love, but it’s often rooted in fear, dependence, and highs and lows (the intermittent reinforcement) from the abusive situation.

About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

If you’re ready to heal, visit The Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse to get started.



  1. Thanks for taking something so complicated and making it clear easy to relate and understand. I really love the he opened the door for me. LOL I gotta raise my standards and expectations!!!

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