Betrayal Bond

A betrayal is a breach of trust, the violation of a promise, and evidence of disloyalty. Betrayal is built of lies and dishonesty. It causes harm to the person who has been betrayed. When someone betrays another, it is intentional and done with purpose. Self-motivation and self-interest define the betrayer's actions. After betrayal occurs, it becomes difficult to trust the person again and to have confidence in their words and intentions. This lack of trust generalizes to others, who may also betray.
Betrayal may be traumatic if it involves fear and violence. A betrayal bond causes the person betrayed to bond with the betrayer in such a way that violence or threat of death may not dislodge the bond. Carnes (1997) describes the development of a betrayal bond. He describes the wound, the hurt and fear that are now present. The stress of the betrayal results in a neurochemical response similar to addiction. What may occur is that the bond becomes compulsive. Rather than avoiding the person who has betrayed, the person may develop an attachment, an addictive attachment to the person who has hurt them. 

Emotional responses reinforce each other and spiral out of the person's control. This process may include:

Betrayal bonds are common in cases of domestic violence , child sexual abuse, adult sexual abuse, cult membership, kidnapping, and addiction. What is most harmful is desired, and the ability to let go of the relationship or process is profoundly difficult. The victim attaches to the abuser. This is seen in the case of children protecting their abusers and domestic violence victims lying to others about the abuse and returning again and again to an assaultive relationship. The bonds are rooted in the betrayal. Betrayal bonds are demonstrated by loyalty and attachment to the betrayer and self-destructive denial in the person who has been betrayed. 

Signs that indicate a betrayal bond may exist include:

  • Covering up and defending the other person when others judge him.
  • Continuing to believe false promises.
  • Patterns of destructive fighting.
  • Not reacting to an event to which others respond negatively.
  • Obsessing over the other person, relationship, and behavior.
  • Feeling powerlessness about the other person's behavior.
  • Loyalty to someone who is hurting another person.
  • Willingness to hold hurtful secrets.
  • Belief that you can change the person from hurtful to not-hurtful.
  • Paying attention to the person's positive attributes and ignoring degrading or destructive behaviors.
  • Inbility to detach from the person even when you do not like them, love them, or trust them. You stay when a part of you hates them.
  • Missing and longing for a relationship that almost destroyed you.
  • Overlooking all the broken promises, destructive behaviors, and exploitation and covering it so that others will not know.

Betrayal bonds are important to understand in the dynamics of child sexual abuse. Both child victims and mothers of sexually abused children can develop betrayal bonds with the perpetrator. This is more likely if he is a family member. Both have experienced betrayal and violation of trust

Betrayal bonds do not dissolve on their own. Time does not heal them. Dissociation and lack of awareness maintain the risk of self-destructive behaviors in the victims of betrayal. It will be necessary to face the attachment to the betrayer, face the wounds, face the feelings, learn to trust yourself, and learn to trust others.

See also Stockholm Syndrome



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