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What a Trauma Bond With a Narcissist Looks Like

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC,   January 13, 2024

Narcissists may not consciously say they are going to form a trauma bond with the person they are currently with.  But that doesn’t mean they aren’t intentionally trying to lure you in.  And it definitely doesn’t mean that they have no intentions of trapping you in a relationship with them.  So, what exactly does a trauma bond with a narcissist look like?

A trauma bond with a narcissist looks like someone who knows exactly what makes you tick and uses it to keep you engaged with them.  Then, when they start to gaslight, deny, belittle, and otherwise abuse you and you start to pull away, they will once again sweeten the deal so you can’t say no.  You will then question yourself, and they will keep pouring on the lovebombing.  Until you let your guard down.  And then it all starts again.

Let’s take a deeper look at exactly what a trauma bond with a narcissist looks like and how it differs from other trauma bonds.

How a Trauma Bond With a Narcissist Differs From Other Trauma Bonds 

While a trauma bond with a narcissist looks like most other trauma bonds on the surface, it is a little bit different.  Often, a trauma bond is formed when a person takes control of you without consideration of being in a relationship (think kidnapping, hostage situations, elder abuse, human trafficking, military, or even cults).  The trauma bond is held by force.  In these cases, relationship in a positive light isn’t really ever a consideration.  Check out this article about the types of trauma bonds for more information.

While the abuser isn’t necessarily trying to form a bond with you, they will often exhibit kindness, nice words, or other positive reinforcement that will cause the trauma bond to form.  That is because they are human.  And no human is entirely evil, no matter how evil their behavior can be.  These little moments of humanity will pop out.  And the victim will immediately see it and think that maybe things aren’t as bad as they were thinking they were. 

They will then start empathizing with the abuser.  And because of the nature of the roller coaster they are on, they will not be able to discern the trauma bond for the danger it presents.  They will only see that they want to bring out the positive traits of the abuser and try to avoid the negative.

Even with the bond formed in the mind of the victim, the trauma bond in these cases are still different than with a relationship with a narcissist because the abuser is still not trying to form a long-term relationship.  While in both cases, the goal is control of another person, the way in which they gain and maintain control is still very different.

How a Trauma Bond With a Narcissist is the Same as Other Trauma Bonds

There are cases of trauma bonding in which similarities to a trauma bond with a narcissist are the same.  This is likely because many of those trauma bonds are formed by narcissists.  They are one and the same.  Some of the examples of trauma bond relationships that are the same are work relationships, family relationships, couples, teacher/student relationships, church or other social group relationships, neighbors, or friendships.  

Did you notice the difference from the list of trauma bonds that are different from trauma bonds with a narcissist?  These are all more relational.  So there will be a constant tug of war going on between intermittent reinforcement and trauma in order to keep the relationship going.

A relationship with a narcissist exists in their mind as transactional as opposed to relational.  So while it may feel like a relationship to you, to them it is a matter of offering you the thing that will keep you engaging with them at that moment. 

I only learned about this after 27 years of marriage to a narcissist.  We were in counseling and he actually told our counselor that he saw our marriage as a business relationship.  That was why he couldn’t understand why if he went on a date with me (even though he ignored me all night and sat on his phone), I would be expected to meet his physical needs that night in return.  It had nothing to do with how we related (or didn’t) during our time together in those evenings.

How to Escape a Trauma Bond With a Narcissist

Do you think you might possibly be in a trauma bond with a narcissist?  You can take this quick test to give you a better idea.

You can also check out this article that talks about the signs of trauma bonding.  

If after looking into it, you feel that you or a loved one is actually in a trauma bond, realize that you are not as trapped as you may feel like.  If you feel that you are in danger, you need to immediately contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit them online.

As long as you don’t feel like you are immediately in danger, your journey to freedom and emotional health will look a bit different.  Counseling is almost always the first line of defense because a trauma bond is a very difficult situation.  But you must find a counselor that you can relate to well and that understands narcissism, codependency, and trauma bonding well.  

Reading about narcissism and trauma bonding are also great ways to learn how to recognize and deal with it.  Reading the articles on this site as well as some others will be instrumental to you as you realize you are not alone.  Others have been where you are and heave healed!  Here is an article that talks about breaking a trauma bond in 11 steps.  If you need even more, check out my resource page for some of the best books and printables to help you on your journey.

How to Keep Yourself Safe From a Trauma Bond With a Narcissist

There are some ways that you can protect yourself from getting caught up in a trauma bond with a narcissist to begin with.  It is always better to not get entangled at all than to have to remove yourself from a trauma bond later on.  

If you meet someone who comes on very strongly from the beginning, be wary.  This is difficult because most of the time, people are just genuinely kind and loving.  But there is a difference between someone going out of their way to be kind to everyone they meet vs. someone trying to reel you in with overwhelming kindness.  

Often, you can tell someone is not what they are showing you initially by the way they treat others around you.  Are they rude to wait staff at restaurants?  Are they impatient drivers?  Do you see small flashes of fire in their eyes that suddenly die down when they are speaking passionately about something?  Does their body language match their words?  Or maybe, is what they are showing you of themselves feeling “too good to be true?”

There are many ways to tell whether someone is a narcissist or not.  But sometimes it takes time for it to come out.  They are going to be very careful to make sure they don’t show you what is lurking underneath.  Except that narcissist often lack self awareness.  And because of this, you will be able to see them for what they are if you are really looking.


I do want to note that while we compared and contrasted what a trauma bond with a narcissist looks like with what other trauma bonds are like, the two are not mutually exclusive.  Any trauma bonded relationship can be with a narcissist.  They work in all sorts of ways and can be found everywhere.  

The takeaway point here is to be able to recognize what a trauma bond with a narcissist looks like. Then you can be emotionally healthy enough to avoid it or get out immediately if you find yourself in one.

Have you had experiences with trauma bonds, with or without a narcissist involved?  How long did it take you to realize?  How did you become emotionally healthy enough to emerge?  Are you still feeling trapped?  I would love for you to share in the comments below, or if you don’t want to share publicly, you can contact me here.


Blessings and love to you!

If you liked this article, I think you will also love the following articles:

Who Gets Caught up in a Trauma Bond?

How a Trauma Bond Affects Future Relationships

Does a Narcissist Feel a Trauma Bond?

Can You Trauma Bond With a Parent?

How to Break a Trauma Bond With a Parent

Can a Trauma Bond Turn into Love?

How Quickly Can a Trauma Bond Form?

Can Narcissists be Trauma Bonded?

How to Break a Trauma Bond in 11 Steps

Are You Trauma Bonded?  Take This Test to Find Out!

Trauma Bonding Explained:  Why “Just Leave” Doesn’t Work

Recognizing & Dealing With Trauma Bonding Withdrawal Symptoms

Types of Trauma Bonding:  What You Need to Know

The Seven Stages of Trauma Bonding:  An In-depth Look

Are You in a Trauma Bonding Relationship?  Find out Now!

Signs of Trauma Bonding You Need to Look Out For


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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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