Is It Love or Is It trauma? -By Dr. Nicole LePera

So, you meet someone and the connection feels intoxicating. Suddenly, your world revolves around them. It’s exciting, but there’s lots of chaos. Your nervous system goes into fight or flight, and you perceive this feeling as passion.

Moving quickly, you commit. Finally, someone gets you. Sure, there’s red flags, but the adrenaline and oxytocin keep you wanting as much of this person as you can. Slowly, life kicks in. As the hormonal responses of the body slow down, you can see this person struggles with the day to day of committed relationships. Maybe they don’t help with chores, maybe they’re emotionally unavailable, maybe they’re shutdown.

Next, they start acting out. Seeing all sides of your partner makes them feel vulnerable— so does emotional intimacy. So, a push pull dynamic begins. This looks like: picking fights, making accusations, or threatening to leave anytime something upsets them.

Unable to work through their internal anxiety, your partner creates external chaos. Emotional connection is now highly triggering, not soothing for them. This leaves you confused. How can this be the same person you met?

You keep remembering and focusing on the good times. After intense fights or chaotic events, this good side continues to come out. There’s apologies, promises made, and huge displays of emotions. You want them to be this person.

An intense cycle begins. Connection is only found through chaos, threats of abandonment, and conflict. The high after these issues keeps you coming back. You crave the closeness. The “big” displays of jealousy or emotion feel like love.

What’s missing is emotional intimacy. A stable, steady, calm love that doesn’t use drama to create a pseudo sense of connection.

This is the trauma bond.

This feeling of “they are so close to changing and becoming who I want them to be” is sooo powerful, and often keeps one stuck in that cycle of the trauma bond for years.

We have to accept people for who they are today and not their “potential.” Who they are today is reality. Who they could be in the future is a fantasy.

Let’s heal from our abandonment and trauma wounds, so we are no longer accepting these “breadcrumbs” of love.

Attachment-Focused EMDR can help you identify the parts of yourself seeking safety and validation in emotionally unsafe individuals. Schedule a consultation via the link in the “contact” tab to learn more.