If you’ve ever experienced the physical and psychological pain trauma bonding causes, a question you might have is, “How can trauma bonds be prevented?”

Three ways to prevent trauma bonds are educating yourself on abusive healthy relationships, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, and building a support network of friends, family, or professionals such as therapists to provide guidance, validation, and a balanced perspective when navigating relationships.

In this article, I will guide you through these three points to help you better understand how to protect yourself from trauma bonding. 

1.) Educate Yourself on Abusive and Healthy Relationships

Navigating the complexities of personal relationships becomes much easier when you understand the dynamics of abusive and healthy relationships. 

This knowledge is more than just information—it’s a protective tool that allows you to identify and react to warning signs of abuse or manipulation. 

So, instead of becoming deeply entrenched in an unhealthy dynamic, leaving you wondering how you got there, you can spot and address red flags early on.

A woman thinking about leaving the narcissist.

This helps you make conscious and well-informed decisions about your relationships and prevents you from forming traumatic bonds with abusive people.

In addition, being clear about what a healthy relationship looks like means you can establish and maintain a healthy sense of your value and rights in a relationship. 

This is an important skill to have because the clarity it brings helps you become less likely to settle for less or overlook abusive behaviors. 

To bring this to life, I want you to imagine that you have started dating a partner who showers you with affection, making you feel special. 

(A common tactic in trauma-bonded relationships)

Suggested Reading: Is Trauma Bonding Intentional? (9 Reasons Why It Is)

As your relationship with this person progresses, they begin to belittle you and undermine your achievements.

If you haven’t educated yourself about abusive and healthy relationships, you might accidentally misinterpret these actions as constructive criticism and concern.

But with a solid grasp of the difference between abusive and healthy behavior, you can immediately recognize these as potential signs of trouble.

This is so important because it puts you in a position to set and maintain healthy boundaries (something I will discuss next) that protect you from trauma bonding.

2.) Set and Maintain Healthy Boundaries

Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is essential for building relationships based on mutual respect and understanding. 

Boundaries outline where one person’s emotional and physical space begins and another’s ends. 

They act as protective barriers, ensuring that our needs are met and that we aren’t taken advantage of.

Essentially, they are the framework for ensuring our emotional, mental, and physical well-being in interpersonal relationships.

Suggested Reading: How to Set Boundaries with a Narcissist (6 Steps)

Now, let’s look at the role setting and maintaining healthy boundaries plays in preventing trauma bonds.

I want you to imagine you’ve started living with a narcissistic person named Sam.

Almost daily, Sam criticizes, humiliates, and shames you.

A narcissist yelling at someone.

But occasionally, Sam surprises you with your favorite meal or helps you with something significant, like paying some of your bills when you’re short on cash. 

Because you haven’t learned to set and maintain healthy boundaries with Sam, you tell yourself, “It’s just how Sam is,” and push down the hurt from the abuse. 

As months turn into years, you find yourself walking on eggshells, always anxious about Sam’s unpredictable moods. 

The rare acts of “kindness” keep you hopeful for change and more understanding/tolerant of Sam’s abusive behavior.

This environment of verbal abuse combined with moments of kindness creates a trauma bond. 

You begin to feel trapped, always seeking Sam’s approval and dreading their disapproval, even if it’s about the smallest of issues.

Now, let’s say you have learned how to set and maintain healthy boundaries with Sam.

Not long after you’ve begun living together and experiencing Sam’s frequent abuse, you recognize the need to protect your well-being. 

You attempt a conversation:

“Sam, I value myself and my peace of mind. Your comments hurt me, and while I’d like us to have a good living relationship, I won’t tolerate disrespectful behavior.”

A woman setting a boundary with a narcissist.

Given Sam’s narcissistic traits, he might dismiss your feelings or even turn the blame towards you. 

But, armed with your understanding of healthy boundaries, you don’t allow yourself to be controlled by Sam’s gaslighting or other forms of manipulation.

Rather than accepting his hurtful behavior, you take proactive measures. 

You start distancing yourself emotionally from Sam.

Engaging with him only when necessary. You even join support groups or seek therapy to validate your experiences and gain relationship management tools.

Over time, recognizing the toll the environment takes on your mental health, you begin to explore other living arrangements. 

The occasional acts of “kindness” Sam exhibits don’t keep you hopeful for change or encourage you to be “more understanding” of their actions.

Instead, they are seen for what they often are in narcissistic patterns: manipulative tools to keep you trapped within the abuse cycle. 

So, with these boundaries firmly in place, you prevent the conditions that would form a trauma bond, reclaiming your autonomy and self-worth in the process.

3.) Build a Healthy Support Network

A healthy support network is a group of trusted individuals, such as friends, family, or professionals, who provide emotional and psychological support. 

They offer a safe space for you to share feelings, seek advice, and gain validation, and help you surround yourself with people who genuinely care for and understand you.

Having a healthy support network can be huge in preventing trauma bonds. 

When exposed to potentially harmful situations or relationships, this network offers an objective perspective, helping you recognize and steer clear of negative patterns. 

Their consistent support and affirmation remind you of your worth, making it less likely for you to form bonds rooted in trauma or manipulation.

Suggested Reading: Identifying Your Supporters Checklist

For example, imagine you’re in a situation where you often feel undermined or undervalued. 

When isolated, you might start to internalize these feelings, questioning your worth and capabilities. 

Over time, you begin to rely on any small sign of appreciation or validation from the source of your distress (the abuser). 

This dependence can grow into a trauma bond, where you tolerate the negative behavior in anticipation of those brief, unpredictable moments of validation.

Without external input or validation, it becomes challenging to discern the harmful nature of the situation, leading you to remain stuck in a damaging cycle.

Now, picture the same scenario but with a group of trusted individuals around you. 

A support network.

When you share your experiences, they express concern and remind you of your strengths, achievements, and value. 

Their insights and encouragement help you see the situation from a different perspective. 

Their consistent support acts as a buffer, counteracting the negative feelings and preventing the formation of a trauma bond. 

This network serves as a grounding force, reminding you that you don’t have to settle for sporadic validation and consistent negativity.

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

Of course, everyone’s situation is different. But as a general rule, three ways you can protect yourself from trauma bonding are:

  1. Learning about abusive and healthy relationships.
  2. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries.
  3. Building a healthy support network.

I hope this article brought you value. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

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.


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