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Every relationship, even healthy ones, experience highs and lows. However, when the highs and lows become the normal routine in a relationship, to the point of being tumultuous, likely, the relationship is not authentic love, but instead is rooted in toxicity.

In an abusive relationship (emotional, physical, or otherwise) there are periods in which things are calm, and even in some cases, amazing in contrast to the abuse. For example, a partner may be extremely abusive, but for the most part, they act the opposite when things are good. In between cycles of abuse, they may shower their partner in love, or they may have amazing sex. During these upcycles, things are so great, that a trauma bond is formed.

Unfortunately, a cycle begins to repeat in which abuse happens, then there is love bombing, and then abuse again. Oftentimes, trauma bonds begin characteristically. Here is what the beginning stages of a trauma bond look like:

1. Love bombing

Love bombing is what happens when, at the very beginning, one or both partners come on strong. They may believe they are ‘soulmates’ and become affectionate quickly. They will make grand gestures, like getting married quickly or getting a tattoo. And they will likely profess their love to the world.

2. Trust and dependency.

Much like an addiction, the trauma bond can produce highs so high that the person keeps coming back for more. Because of how intense the beginning is, the partners become extremely bonded to one another.

3. Criticism

Next, the abusive partner will begin to tear down and belittle the other person in slight ways. They may make criticisms about everything they do, making them feel bad about themselves.

4. Manipulation and gaslighting.

Now, the abusive partner believes they have the other person stuck. They will begin using manipulation tactics like guilt-tripping, stonewalling, and gaslighting. The more they can undermine the other person’s sanity, the easier it is to control them.

5. Idealization and devaluation.

The abuser will cycle between idealizing their partner and making them feel the way they did in the beginning. They will profess their love to them. They will promise to never hurt them again. They will make grand gestures. And then, they will revert to abuse. The other partner will cling to “They aren’t like that all the time. I can change them. They love me,” excuse.

6. Addiction

Through the drastic ups and downs, those involved will become addicted to one another. Instead of having a healthy love, this connection is codependent, to say the least.

Authentic Love

Authentic love is much different than trauma bonding. Instead of feeling like you need the other person, you accept them. Instead of constantly going through ups and downs-the connection is predictable, stable, and safe. You will feel comfortable bearing your soul, not just your body. And of course, there will be clear boundaries, instead of constant abuse.