When you think about it, narcissism is such a sad quality.
Somebody who loves themselves obsessively can’t give or receive love.
But they can be a magnet for trauma and trap you in years of heartache and toxic codependency.
Here’s how to bust that bitter bond forever and move on with your life.
15 ways to break the trauma bond with a narcissist
1) Know what you’re dealing with
Trauma bonds are formed when an individual feels connected to the person mistreating them.
Worse, trauma bonds can often be mistaken for love.
The narcissist, meanwhile, is an individual who only cares about him or herself and considers themselves superior and entitled to anything they want, even if it hurts or shortchanges others.
The trauma bond with a narcissist is where the narcissist exercises control and abusive power over his or her partner, friend or even relative.
The recipient of that abusive manipulation then believes it is a way to love – or at least believes the mistreatment is the price of love.
It’s horrible to see, and surprisingly common.
This video from Dr. Les Carter is especially informative when it comes to breaking the trauma bond with a narcissist.
As Carter says, “when you’re attached with a narcissist – especially a malignant narcissist – it’s almost like you have a cancer that’s been growing on the inside of your personality.”
2) Learn to recognize a trauma bond
As Carter notes, trauma bonds aren’t just in romantic relationships, although that is one of the most common places they happen.
If you’re looking for ways to break the trauma bond with a narcissist, it’s crucial to realize that they may exist in places you didn’t expect.
Your family. Your business. Your friendships. Your romantic partner.
The key to cutting off the trauma bond with a narcissist is recognizing when it’s gone so far that the connection is cutting off your own personal power, ambitions and emotional stability.
None of us are perfect, especially in our relationships, and it can be easy to mistake a trauma bond with a narcissist as normal or as them being “picky” or just wanting what’s best for us.
While it’s good to recognize your own faults, you should never gaslight yourself and blame yourself for the self-centered emotional manipulation of a narcissist.
Which brings us to point three…
3) Stop beating yourself up
Many of us who have been in abusive relationships with a narcissist in the victim position recognize the following behavior:
It’s one of the ironies of life that many of the people who think they are to blame for everything spend their time trying to serve others and atone for it…
While those who actually are causing emotional and physical destruction often never stop to consider – or care – about the damage they’re doing.
Stop beating yourself up!
If you are trying to find ways to break the trauma bond with a narcissist, you need to believe in yourself and stand up for yourself.
While the methods in this article will help you deal with cutting ties with a narcissist, it can be helpful to speak to a relationship coach about your situation.
With a professional relationship coach, you can get advice tailored to the specific issues you’re facing in your love life and make sure you don’t fall into a vicious cycle of another trauma bond in the future.
Relationship Hero is a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people navigate complex and difficult love situations, like overcoming an emotionally abusive relationship.
They’re popular because they genuinely help people solve problems.
Why do I recommend them?
Well, after going through difficulties in my own love life, I reached out to them a few months ago.
After feeling helpless for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship, including practical advice about how to stop blaming myself for the frustrations I was feeling!
I was blown away by how genuine, understanding and professional they were.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice specific to your situation and issues with a narcissistic partner.
4) Get yourself in a good place
Many people end up in a trauma bond with a narcissist because they were not in a strong place to start with.
The narcissist is like a black hole.
He or she sucks others into their self-obsessed and ruthless world who are looking for a purpose and approval.
The narcissist then parcels out that approval based on how much you serve them.
They also sometimes will withdraw affection, help or approval if you disappoint them or if they want to manipulate you in more extreme ways.
For a sensitive, creative person, the actions of the narcissist can look like something you deserve.
Or something you brought on yourself.
But that’s why it’s so crucial to ensure you get yourself in a good place.
In order to break the trauma bond with a narcissist you need to stand strong for your own worth and let their games, shaming and manipulation bounce off you with no effect.
5) Take an honest look at the narcissist’s behavior
One of the best ways to motivate yourself to break the trauma bond with a narcissist is to take an honest look at their behavior.
Just for a moment, let all the excuses go.
The fact that your girlfriend had a poor upbringing or was mistreated by her mom, and now she always needs to be the center of attention and get what she wants.
The fact that your father grew up with a disability or underwent a traumatic divorce, and now he’s irritable and expects others to always do what he says.
The fact that your boyfriend has had a few years of awful career setbacks and is now depressed and expects you to fix it for him.
Let these excuses and background facts go for a moment.
Just look at their behavior as an independent phenomenon, and then look at yours.
Are you serving someone who doesn’t appreciate it at all and takes out all their problems on you?
Are you feeling guilty for letting someone down who constantly lets you down and makes no effort?
This is wrong! It’s time for a reality check about just how unacceptable these people’s behavior is, regardless of its background causes.
6) Identify and bust down the narcissists’ control strategies
Narcissists are like puppet masters who have a range of strings to pull at any time to make you dance and jerk around like a fool.
The secret is:
Once you recognize their control strategies, they lose their ability to hoodwink you.
The following are a list of common control strategies used by narcissists.
If they are doing this to you, it’s time to break down these barriers by no longer falling for these tricks.
- Making you feel guilty and selfish for having your own life.
- Using finances or other forms of support to control what you do.
- Telling you what to believe and care about and implying you are stupid, wrong or malicious if you disagree.
- Gaslighting you and saying that you are a) wrong or b) to blame if you point out aspects of their behavior which are unacceptable.
- Gossiping behind your back to lower your profile at work, at home or in the community and gain leverage over you.
- And so much more!
If a narcissist is doing this to you, then you need to know:
It’s not OK.
It’s not your fault.
And it needs to stop now.
7) Break through the fear
In order to break the trauma bond with a narcissist, you need to break through the fear.
Although they will often dangle love, rewards, validation and a better future in front of you, the narcissist generally falls back on using fear as a tool.
They will rage at you or give you weeks of the silent treatment if you refuse to be used.
They may threaten suicide if you leave.
They will do almost anything and everything to maintain their grip over you and to make you cling to that trauma bond as a lifeline.
They want you to fear their anger, their accusations and their sensitivity.
They want you to fear your own sense of unworthiness and guilt if you let them down.
Your biggest weapon in this fight is to feel the fear and do what you know is right regardless.
Feel the fear paralyzing you and step forward anyway, leaving this toxic relationship behind.
8) Crack down on codependence
As Dr. Carter says, trauma bonds with a narcissist are a form of “psychological cancer.”
If you’re struggling with this nobody can blame you for reaching the end of your rope.
At this time you may feel very tempted to engage in self-pity, anger, lashing back at your tormenter or just repressing the whole situation.
The problem is that even if these reactions may be justified, the narcissist will just use them as ammunition.
“I can’t believe you would…” will become his or her new mantra.
Making you pay for stepping out of line will become his or her new long-term strategy and control tactic.
Instead of just following your instincts and getting angry or sad, you need to crack down on codependence.
Codependence in relationships is sadly common and often falls into a “victim” and “savior” role.
The narcissist in this case would be the victim role. Even though you are the actual victim, the narcissist would play the role of never getting enough of what they deserve.
And you would play the role of the savior here to fix his or her life and make things OK again.
But you can never do enough, and find you are gaslighted and tormented for everything that you do regardless.
Codependency is unwinnable and extremely useless. Don’t even play that game. Walk away.
9) Hack your own code
Breaking the trauma bond with a narcissist isn’t easy, but it’s very much necessary.
It can feel almost impossible to cut ties when doing so could affect others such as kids, friends, family members and your career…
But these are often the kind of things that a malignant narcissist will use to keep you trapped.
And you may have to break free regardless.
When we get disappointed and frustrated in love, it’s tempting to throw up our hands and feel like we’ve been randomly victimized and there’s nothing we can do to prevent the same disturbing experience from repeating in the future.
We look to others for answers and cross our fingers for better luck next time.
But there’s another place you can also look.
Right in the mirror.
This is where your power lies.
The truth is, most of us overlook an incredibly important element in our lives:
The relationship we have with ourselves.
I learnt about this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. In his genuine, free video on cultivating healthy relationships, he gives you the tools to plant yourself at the center of your world.
He covers some of the major mistakes most of us make in our relationships, such as codependency habits and unhealthy expectations. Mistakes most of us make without even realizing it.
So why am I recommending Rudá’s life-changing advice?
Well, he uses techniques derived from ancient shamanic teachings, but he puts his own modern-day twist on them. He may be a shaman, but his experiences in love weren’t much different to yours and mine.
Until he found a way to overcome these common issues. And that’s what he wants to share with you.
So if you’re ready to make that change today and cultivate healthy, loving relationships, relationships you know you deserve, check out his simple, genuine advice.
10) Get your money right
One of the top ways that a narcissist strengthens and maintains the trauma bond is through money.
If he or she has more money, they will often use it to tell you what to do in return for financial security.
If he or she struggles with money, they will often guilt you into financially supporting them if you “really” care about them.
The point is that money matters.
If you are struggling financially, do whatever you can to stabilize your situations somewhat and get out of the clutches of a narcissistic manipulator.
If money is not currently a problem for you, but you have various people leeching off you financially, it’s time to put your foot down.
Helping out is one thing, but having various people and narcissists feeding off you like a sow is something else entirely.
And it needs to come to an end.
11) Ditch the self-guilt
Walking away from a narcissist and breaking the trauma bond requires surety.
You need to know why you’re doing it and where you put your foot down.
It requires ditching the self-guilt and standing up for yourself.
This does not mean you have to fight it out, argue or have huge confrontations.
It simply means that you know that your choice to break this bond is part of the following:
- Your plan to do what is best for all involved, including the narcissist who must learn to change their behavior if they want to have relationships.
- Your own dignity and self worth, which is not up for negotiation or compromise.
- Your future prospects, about which you are realistic but hopeful, despite the pain of this separation and bond breaking.
This all requires leaving the self-guilt behind.
You are worthy. You deserve better. You will find better.
12) Stick to your plan
One of the most common things that happens when someone finds effective ways to break the trauma bond with a narcissist, is that they get halfway and then stop.
A tearful pleading leads them right back into the exact same hole.
A phone call a week later causes them to rethink everything.
A bounced check makes them turn back to their narcissist or sugar daddy.
This is the wrong move!
You need to stick to your plan. In a year or two if this narcissist has truly changed, they can come back to you and try again.
But while you are in the heat of moving on from this ugly situation, do not allow yourself to be dragged right back in.
This is the toxic cycle that the narcissist thrives on.
It’s exactly the cycle you’re trying to escape.
Do not let yourself be seduced, threatened, persuaded or bluffed back in.
Keep following your own path and get your own life on track away from this emotional manipulation.
13) Call out the lies
Trauma bonds are built on a lie at their core.
The lie is that you are responsible for someone else’s happiness, and that you are to blame for not living your life only for them.
Each of us has an absolute right to life.
There is no conceivable way that you can be told your entire life is only for someone else’s benefit, even somebody you love, even somebody severely disabled, even somebody who you have wonderful memories with.
You do your best, you help and you love with your whole heart.
But you can’t fix everything or be available 24/7.
You need to have your own life and keep moving forward.
If a narcissist isn’t willing to recognize you as an individual, you are forced to cut ties.
And a big part of that is calling out the lies that you have to fix someone else’s life.
14) Find the right support
If you want to know ways to break the trauma bond with a narcissist, it involves cutting off contact and trusting yourself.
That can obviously be very hard to do, particularly if you were married to this person and have kids or if they are a family member.
That’s why it’s key to find the right support.
This could mean a professional therapist, it could mean a relationship advisor like I recommended earlier.
The right support also means getting busy with things you love to do and reestablishing strong ties with everyone you love.
Focus on what you can build proactively and what still remains, rather than on the toxic connection that you’ve had to sever.
You’re clearly going to be thinking about it a lot and traumatized.
But by reminding yourself you are not to blame and you did the right thing…
And by keeping busy on new projects and strengthening old ties…
There is no doubt that you can and will succeed.
15) Never underestimate how hard it will be
Breaking the trauma bond with a narcissist isn’t just about you or your own personal journey and self-esteem.
In most cases it requires breaking from a way, place or method you’ve been living in.
In order to break the trauma bond, you need to often break ties with the situation or location itself.
This can mean divorce. This can mean the end of a friendship. This can mean cutting off family.
You may have tried to get this person help in many ways. They may have even tried to help themselves and fallen back into old ways.
At a certain point it’s time to move on.
You can’t live someone else’s life for them, and you certainly can’t take responsibility for the actions and faults of another person.
Their actions are up to them, your actions are up to you.
How long should you hold out hope?
Narcissists are masters at leading you on with promises and the hint of a better future.
They are also highly skilled at making their codependent partner feel rash or ungrateful for wanting to cut ties with them.
Here’s the thing:
Yes, everyone can change.
But playing games with your heart and mind isn’t the same thing as actually pledging and planning to change.
It’s crucial that you recognize the difference.
Look at this person’s motivations. Are they trying their best to keep you because they know you’ve had enough?
Look at their actions. Are they still behaving in selfish and hurtful ways even while they promise to turn over a new leave?
Look at this person’s past behavior and track record. Have they made empty promises before?
Sad as it might be to break the bonds with someone you love, sometimes the only thing left to do is walk out that door.