Falling in love with someone who treats you badly is not romantic, it is abusive. The most commonly known case of falling in love with someone who is definitely not right for you is Stockholm Syndrome.
It is shown in countless movies and TV shows where a person develops feelings for their captor and falls in love with them over time. “He gave me water today,” they proclaim like it is an act of heroism while they are tied up in a basement somewhere. Their sense of reality is so skewed that they will accept anything in order to receive validation from someone. This does not only happen in movies, but it also happens in real life as well. Most likely, a person is not tied up in a basement somewhere getting the hots for their captor, they are in a bad relationship basement-free. They keep coming back for more abuse because they are in a trauma bond, otherwise known as Stockholm Syndrome.
The phrase “trauma bond” was coined by Patrick Carnes who describe it as, “the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings and sexual physiology to entangle another person.” Basically, it is a physically or emotionally abusive person who ensnares another in their trap.
If you’re thinking, “That would never happen to me,” you’re probably wrong. It can happen to anyone at any time, anywhere. It does not matter how smart a person is or how much life experience they have. It can happen to anyone because it starts off so subtly.
Unlike a person in a film who gets hit over the head with a crowbar at the start of a horror movie, in real life, it usually starts off with a casual conversation with a new person. A smile between two people walking down the street, asking for someone to get something off the top shelf or a casual conversation about the weather; it starts off so simply. You get acquainted and eventually become friends or start dating. Once you become close, that is when reality sets in. The person is not as cool as you once thought they were, but you give them the benefit of the doubt. Some people cut it off at this point, but others are curious to see where this goes, and they usually get hurt in the process.
The person is around at all times, texting or calling or popping up at your work or job unexpectedly. They start to isolate you from your friends and family, whispering things in your ear that separates you from them. Soon, they start to devalue you, calling you names and making you rely on them financially as well as emotionally. Once you escape their grasp, you see that you have don’t have any family or friends that you can lean on and only have them for support. This is a classic example of an abusive partner. This situation does not happen overnight; it is a slow and steady build up that can take months or even years for it to come full circle.
Unlike in a movie where the police come to save, you are by yourself towards the end of the relationship. A good way for this not to be your story is to practice the difference between discernment and judgment with individuals.
Discernment is the ability to feel what is right or wrong in situations with others, otherwise known as your intuition or the vibe you receive from a person or a group. It is not something you can prove, only feel. It deals more with your emotions. Judgment, on the other hand, deals with the logical side of an individual. A person can tell what is right and wrong based on past experiences and labels. It is neither right nor wrong to be judgemental or to have discernment towards others, it just is.
Labeling is extremely helpful when dealing with unhealthy relationships. Knowing what something is and putting a name on it is helpful to the one experiencing the abuse. Toxic is toxic, no matter what form it comes in. It can come in all forms from parents to siblings to organizations to partners.
So, before letting yourself become part of a trauma bond, learn the difference between discernment and judgment. Once you know your values, no one can take that away from you or manipulate you in that form again.